Our local TV station anchors mentioned an upcoming segment dealing with Seniors who were being targeted by telemarketing scammers. They stated that law enforcement was very concerned that scams against the elderly were on the rise. Who would do such a thing to people at a more vulnerable stage in their lives? Unprincipled, greedy people who see our Senior Citizens as easy marks.
The phony telemarketers promise ‘Senior Emily’ a “super-duper whatsit” for a mere twenty dollars. The caller lets Emily in on a *secret* – this is half the normal price for this item and she is one of a few handful of lucky people to get this offer – then asks for a credit card # to expedite the sale. “We need to add shipping charges to get it to your house by tomorrow.” Sounds reasonable to Emily. Tomorrow comes and there is no product on the doorstep. But, the scammer now has the credit card # and is already buying electronics and whatever else his/her heart fancies. They won’t be delivered to Emily either.
Our Emily mentions to her son that she never got her half-price whatsit and alarm bells go off as the conversation continues. The credit card is cancelled and counseling is given, but not before thousands of dollars of merchandise has been purchased.
Sadly, this happens day after day all over the country, and is such a big problem in some areas that law enforcement has task forces whose sole purpose is to catch the scammers.
This seems like a simple problem for the family to handle. Have a chat with the Emily in your life about not giving credit card numbers over the phone to anyone? Done. The problem goes away, right? Except that most ‘Emilys’ never mention the phone call until the bill comes in. The scammers keep spending until the credit card limit is reached or the card is closed. These days, credit card companies don’t hold their customers liable for fraudulent purchases, but there are other phone scams that have the potential of wiping out Emily’s life savings with no possibility of ever recovering the money.
The scams include Medicare and other insurance scams, cemetery plot purchases, investment schemes, reverse mortgages, lottery scams, and in my opinion, the lousiest of all, the “relative” scam. In this one, a supposed relative calls the Senior on the phone and without identifying themselves, asks if they know who is calling. The Senior makes a guess from among the younger relatives who would call and the caller now has a real name to work with. Now they can impersonate the relative and ask for money from the Senior for a car repair, late rent, etc. and arrange to have the money sent by wire somewhere. And, sweet Emily promises not to tell the rest of the family that ‘the relative’ is experiencing tough times.
How despicable to prey on family connections!
There are many, many more scams involving Senior Citizens. The National Council on Aging lists the most common, and several of these have multiple variations.
And get this: According to the National Council on Aging, 60% of the financial abuse against Seniors is perpetrated by members of the victim’s own family. Not-so-nice children or siblings or grandchildren cash social security checks and keep part or all of the money. Grocery money goes missing, and the list goes on. Seniors that live alone are especially vulnerable if they have caregivers with them for part of the day who so very ‘kindly’ offer to help with finances.
So, what is an honest family member to do to protect Emily? The next post will reveal some tips.
P.S. The ‘Emily’ in the photo has a lovely family that takes excellent care of her needs.