Scamming Grandma 

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By Susan Heckler

It seems there is news daily about another scam targeted to the Senior Citizens. Why them in particular?

Senior citizens are most likely to have some savings, own their home, and have excellent credit, which makes them very attractive to con-artists. This generation tends to be more polite than the younger ones and won’t just hang up, rather will listen to a convincing con. Elderly victims may not report crimes, whether they are embarrassed, don’t know who to call or because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.

Unfortunately, the effects of age on memory make them bad witnesses. The victims may not realize they have been swindled for weeks or months. Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising health benefits. Seniors are prey to evil-doers no matter what their financial situation is.

I was recently speaking with a young man, Jack, in his late 20’s who was relaying a story about his grandmother, an educated woman on Long Island.  Grandma got a call from a young man, Robbie, claiming to be Jack’s friend.  Robbie said he was on vacation with Jack and that Jack was in jail and in some trouble.  She needed to wire $2,000 immediately for legal and bail.  The scammers had scoured Jack’s Facebook page and was able to learn the details of his life…employment, friends, family and every innocent detail he ever posted. Grandma new Robbie was one of Jack’s good friends and they traveled together. Grandma kissed those 2,000 dollar bills goodbye and got a hard lesson. This is just one of the many brilliant schemes targeting the elderly.

Health Care Fraud or Health Insurance Fraud can involve Medical Equipment offered for free, paid for and never needed or not delivered. “Rolling Lab” Schemes are frequent with unnecessary and sometimes fake tests given to individuals at health clubs, retirement homes, or shopping malls and billed to insurance companies or Medicare.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs, most commonly on the internet, are prevalent with lots of money paid out without the needed benefit of the medication and potential harmful effects of other elements being introduced.

Funeral and Cemetery Fraud is rampant for the uninformed consumer, especially one who is emotionally charged after a death in the family.

Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products, and inexpensive vacations.  If it is too good to be true… it is false.  If you never entered a contest, you can’t win it.  A free prize is free, never pay for it.

Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

Investment schemes may include advance fee schemes, prime bank note schemes, pyramid schemes, and Nigerian letter fraud schemes.

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. In many of the reported scams, victim seniors are offered free homes, investment opportunities, and foreclosure or refinance assistance.

After a lifetime of hard work, it is a sin to see your savings lost in a scam. Speak to your senior family and friends; warn them of these scams.  If you suspect they have been scammed, call your local police or advise your local Department of Consumer Affairs.