Avoiding Scams

In my work as an elder law attorney, I have heard of many situations of vulnerable elders falling prey to scam artists. Vulnerable elders and their families need to be aware of techniques that scam artists use to gain information. One scheme that the scam artists use is to prey on the elder’s fears about finances. Recently I became aware of a scam where a vulnerable adult received a call from a someone claiming to be from Social Security. He gave her an “employee number” to try to bolster his standing as a representative from Social Security. He then told her that all of her medical bills would now be covered by Social Security. He told her that he needed her account information in order to sign her up for the program and proceeded to gather her confidential banking information. In order to rectify the situation, her bank account was closed and a new one opened.

According to the FBI older Americans 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. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.

The FBI outlines several different fraud schemes that scam artists have used in targeting seniors. 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. Other types of scams the FBI identifies are counterfeit prescription drugs, funeral and cemetery fraud, fraudulent anti-aging products, telemarketing fraud, internet, investment schemes and reverse mortgage.

Seniors sometimes make themselves vulnerable to fraud schemes by sharing financial worries in public. If a scam artist hears such worries, he knows that he has a vulnerable target. Scams may be reported to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Senior Services Unit at 239-793-9468 .

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