Law enforcement warns of scams targeting seniors
by Mark Andrews
Sep 05, 2013 | 1979 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Senior citizens have been a targeted population for money scams, according to recent police incident reports, surveys and calls to the Daily Tribune News. Jonathan Rogers, public information officer for the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, said the office receives anywhere from one to three scam reports a week.

“I think a lot of [the scams] come from outside areas. I wouldn’t totally rule out a local person doing it, but most of them aren’t even from Georgia,” Rogers said. “[Scammers] usually use a target where they can get away with it, maybe someone who is not up to date on current terminology, technology or how certain financial or criminal systems work, so they take advantage of what many times turns out to be elderly people.”

While phone call-based scams have been commonplace for years, Rogers said, online scams also are increasing. These range from scams asking for money, comparable to the intent of many phone scams, to those selling either stolen merchandise or falsely advertising a product.

“If something is too good to be true, it’s probably not true. If something is a really good deal, do some research,” Rogers said. “A lot of times on Craigslist if there’s a car for sale and it’s a really good deal ... if you take and copy all that text and do a Google search, you’ll usually find the same listing somewhere else if it’s a scam, almost with the same wording.”

He continued, “A lot of times there are misspellings in these ads because the people [posting the ad] are not from English-speaking countries.”

Rogers said if someone comes across a potential purchase online and feels the item for sale may be stolen, but chooses to move forward with the purchase, there could be legal ramifications.

“There’s always a chance that they could be held responsible [for receiving stolen property] if this item that they bought is such a great deal that it would cause a normal person to think that it may be stolen property or for some [other] reason it’s being sold so cheap,” Rogers said. “If the item has a serial number, I always suggest people have that checked out by law enforcement to see if it is stolen property.”

A press release from the Better Business Bureau states the most recent Elder Fraud Survey by Investor Protection Trust says one in five seniors has been victimized by a financial fraud.

“Senior citizens are fraud targets for a variety of reasons. Typically, they are likely to have excellent credit and own their home,” the release states. “They are unlikely to report a fraud because they are often unaware they’ve been scammed or are ashamed they’ve been defrauded.”

Better Business Bureau and the FBI want each senior citizen to be aware of scams/fraud schemes that could be pursuing them. Common scams that specifically target senior citizens are:

1. Health Care/Insurance Fraud: Scammers may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to give them their personal or financial information. They’ve been known to provide bogus services for elderly people by creating makeshift mobile clinics, then using the personal information provided to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

2. Door to Door Sales/Repairs: Scammers will often go door-to-door offering repair services or equipment sales. Products purchased may never be delivered, repairs may never be done or refunds won’t be received.

3. Funeral/Cemetery Fraud: Scammers will attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the widower or other family member, claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them. They will aggressively demand payment to settle fake debts.

4. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Consumers can now refill prescriptions online, but an unauthorized site with the best price may send ineffective or harmful drugs.

5. Telemarketing Fraud: Telemarketing scams often involve calls and email offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins or health care products. Once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name and personal information is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets.

6. Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products: Scammer-distributors will suggest bogus homeopathic remedies that do nothing or will use renegade labs to create versions of products which can have health consequences.

7. Internet Fraud: Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into downloading a fake program. In some cases a virus will be downloaded allowing scammers to steal personal and financial information.

8. Grandparent Scheme: Scammers will place a call to a senior posing as their grandchild or a relative in need of help or trapped in a foreign country. They will usually ask for cash to solve the problem and ask for payment through a money wiring service.

9. Investment Schemes: Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings, investment schemes have been a successful way for scammers to take advantage of them. From pyramid schemes to real estate investments, a number of schemes have targeted seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years.

10. Reverse Mortgage Scams: Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many seniors own their homes and will send fraudulent letters on behalf of the county’s assessor’s office offering the homeowner to arrange a reassessment of their property for a fee.

Overall tips to avoid the most common scams:

• Start with Trust: Find a business you can trust by doing your research first through bbb.org.

• Beware of high pressure sales tactics: If someone is pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision without allowing you to research first, be prepared to walk away from the offer.

• Be wary of unsolicited correspondence: Government agencies, credit card companies and banks will never ask for personal information through email or over the phone. If you get a call asking for personal or financial information, offer to call the person back so you can research the information they provide to you.

• Use secure payment methods: Never send money by wire transfer to someone you don’t know. Use a credit card for additional protection.

• Safeguard your personal information: Avoid sharing your Social Security number, bank account information, birth date or address to someone you don’t know or trust.

Report fraud: If you think you may have fallen victim to a fraud, contact the BBB online or over the phone.