Older adults especially should be aware of fraud schemes for the following reasons1:
- Older citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
- People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
- Older adults are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed.
- When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.
- Older citizens are more interested in and susceptible to the products that the con artist might be selling.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the top 3 scams targeting seniors include the following2:
- Medicare — Fraudsters pose as Medicare representatives to get seniors to give them their personal information, such as their Medicare identification number. The fraudster uses this information to bill Medicare for fraudulent services and then pockets the money.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs — As prices for prescription drugs increase, seniors look on the internet to find cheaper prices for their medications. Fraudsters are aware of this and set up websites that advertise cheap prescription drugs which are usually counterfeit.
- Funerals — Fraudsters use obituaries to find out information about the deceased in attempts to extort money from family members or grieving spouses. They claim the deceased has an outstanding debt that must be paid immediately. In another scheme, dishonest funeral directors might try to deceive the elderly by capitalizing on their unfamiliarity of funeral costs and sell them unnecessary services.