Senior Fraud

The local law enforcement agencies intend to make seniors fully aware of the many scams often perpetuated against them by con artists. They help seniors avoid becoming victims of consumer fraud, emphasizing that the most effective way to attack this problem is through prevention.

Senior citizens in the county and across the state are easy targets for con artists. Seniors own more than half of all financial assets in America. At the same time, they are vulnerable. While people over 65 comprise 11 percent of the U.S. population, they represent roughly 30 percent of scam victims, according to a U.S. Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care. As a result, seniors lose billions of unrecoverable dollars each year to fraud.

The disproportionate victimization of older people in connection with consumer fraud is partly attributable to generation and economic factors. Seniors grew up in an era when business was done on a handshake. Further, a study by the American Association of Retired Persons has found that older people are quicker to believe promises and slower to take steps to protect their legal rights. Since seniors often save money for retirement, they often have money on hand.

Although most seniors in the county are not poor, many have saved for retirement through long years of work. In fact, Social Security is the main source of income for a majority of older residents in the county. With fixed monthly Social Security or pension checks, it is nearly impossible to replenish bank accounts emptied as a result of fraud.

There are many common practices con artists use to defraud seniors, but most are a variation of these three: telemarketing, mail and door-to-door sales. While many scams involve both mailings and telemarketing, some use all three methods. For example, many con artists will generate leads by mailing a survey to gauge interest in a product or service. Consumers who show interest, usually by returning a postcard, are then contacted by telephone or a traveling salesperson who makes the sales pitch.

Below are examples of current consumer scams you should be aware of. Study the examples and learn the warning signs of a con artist at work. This knowledge will help to thwart activities of con artists.

Please note that if you are confronted with such suspicious behavior, you should contact the Police immediately. Also, before signing a contract for home repairs, get a second opinion and take at least 24 hours to consider the purchase.

The salesperson will often emphasize that a living trust avoids inheritance tax to heirs. The membership organization will often offer prepaid legal benefits, medical benefits, and other services that are grossly exaggerated and often are not honored when needed. A warning sign to seniors regarding this type of scam is when membership offers "peace of mind benefits" that seem too good to be true. If the benefits seem too good to be true, they probably are not true. Contact an attorney to have a living trust drafted. Do not rely on door-to-door sales or accepted unsolicited offers by telephone or through the mail.

If a facility refuses to warranty the work or fails to offer a work or a satisfaction guarantee to the customer, you should steer away from that facility. Another warning signal is if the repair facility fails to get authorization to use rebuilt parts as opposed to new parts or if there is a constant delay in returning the car.

Senior citizens are an integral part of the community. Through education and awareness, seniors can be empowered to use reasonable precautions in avoiding con games and scams.


 

Fraud Target: Senior Citizens
 

Senior Citizens should be aware of fraud schemes for the following reasons:



What to Look For and How to Protect Yourself and Your Family



Health Care Fraud or Health Insurance Fraud

Medical Equipment Fraud:

Equipment manufacturers offer “free” products to individuals. Insurers are then charged for products that were not needed and/or may not have been delivered.

“Rolling Lab” Schemes:

Unnecessary and sometimes fake tests are given to individuals at health clubs, retirement homes, or shopping malls and billed to insurance companies or Medicare.

Services Not Performed:

Customers or providers bill insurers for services never rendered by changing bills or submitting fake ones.

Medicare Fraud:

Medicare fraud can take the form of any of the health insurance frauds described above. Senior citizens are frequent targets of Medicare schemes, especially by medical equipment manufacturers who offer seniors free medical products in exchange for their Medicare numbers. Because a physician has to sign a form certifying that equipment or testing is needed before Medicare pays for it, con artists fake signatures or bribe corrupt doctors to sign the forms. Once a signature is in place, the manufacturers bill Medicare for merchandise or service that was not needed or was not ordered.

Tips for Avoiding Health Care Fraud or Health Insurance Fraud:

 

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Tips for Avoiding Counterfeit Prescription Drugs:


Funeral and Cemetery Fraud

Tips for Avoiding Funeral and Cemetery Fraud:


Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products

Tips for Avoiding Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products:


Telemarketing Fraud

If you are age 60 or older—and especially if you are an older woman living alone—you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products, and inexpensive vacations.

There are warning signs to these scams. If you hear these—or similar—“lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you,” and hang up the telephone:

Tips for Avoiding Telemarketing Fraud:

It’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:

Internet Fraud

As web use among senior citizens increases, so does their chances to fall victim to Internet fraud. Internet Fraud includes non-delivery of items ordered online and credit and debit card scams. Please visit the FBI’s Internet Fraud webpage for details about these crimes and tips for protecting yourself from them.

Investment Schemes

As they plan for retirement, senior citizens may fall victim to investment schemes. These may include advance fee schemes, prime bank note schemes, pyramid schemes, and Nigerian letter fraud schemes.

Reverse Mortgage Scams

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) urge consumers, especially senior citizens, to be vigilant when seeking reverse mortgage products. Reverse mortgages, also known as home equity conversion mortgages (HECM), have increased more than 1,300 percent between 1999 and 2008, creating significant opportunities for fraud perpetrators.

Reverse mortgage scams are engineered by unscrupulous professionals in a multitude of real estate, financial services, and related companies to steal the equity from the property of unsuspecting senior citizens or to use these seniors to unwittingly aid the fraudsters in stealing equity from a flipped property.

In many of the reported scams, victim seniors are offered free homes, investment opportunities, and foreclosure or refinance assistance. They are also used as straw buyers in property flipping scams. Seniors are frequently targeted through local churches and investment seminars, as well as television, radio, billboard, and mailer advertisements.

A legitimate HECM loan product is insured by the Federal Housing Authority. It enables eligible homeowners to access the equity in their homes by providing funds without incurring a monthly payment. Eligible borrowers must be 62 years or older who occupy their property as their primary residence and who own their property or have a small mortgage balance. See the FBI/HUD Intelligence Bulletin for specific details on HECMs as well as other foreclosure rescue and investment schemes.

Tips for Avoiding Reverse Mortgage Scams: