Scams that Target the Elderly
some dishonest people have focused their attention on senior citizens.
Taking advantage of fear, hope, and trust, these scammers bilk
thousands of older Americans each year out of much needed cash.
If you receive a call, letter, or a personal visit from anyone
claiming the following, chances are you’ve been contacted
by a rip-off artist.
need a new roof”
cons target older Americans because so many seniors are homeowners.
It usually begins with a spontaneous visit from a “contractor.”
He will offer a special repair deal for seniors, a free inspection,
or he noticed something terribly wrong with your home that needs
urgent attention. If you take the bait, you’ll likely be
charged exorbitant fees to fix something that needs no fixing,
the job will be done shoddily or not at all, or the price of the
repairs will increase dramatically in the middle of the job.
hiring someone to work on your home, ask to see his contractor’s
license number and check it with your state’s Contractors
License Board. Get at least three other bids before making a final
can get you a loan for that new roof”
you need to finance those home repairs (or pay for property taxes,
medical expenses, etc.), watch out for predatory lenders who target
older Americans. These businesses have a way of finding cash-strapped
homeowners, offering home equity loans that come with outrageously
high interest rates, unnecessary fees, and unreasonable repayment
terms. Be extremely suspicious of loans that are marketed to people
with bad credit, offers that are only good for a very short time,
telephone applications, next-day approval with an immediate payment,
or having to pay upfront fees to cover the first payment and other
doing business with sales people who initiate contact: reputable
lenders rarely solicit business over the phone or in person. If
you really need a loan, contact your financial institution.
can fix your bad credit”
on many seniors’ desire to maintain good credit, some scammers
promise to erase negative items from a report – for hundreds
of dollars. However, no matter what the company advertises, bad
credit cannot be magically transformed into good credit. The only
real way to improve your credit rating is through time and effort:
pay what you owe; keep your balances down; and use credit responsibly.
cost of real “credit repair”? Free.
a call or a letter saying that you have won a prize, but in order
to claim it you need to send money to cover a shipping or handling
fee, or pay for taxes upfront? Nonsense. You don’t have
to pay for something you’ve won. As much as you want to
believe that Lady Luck has finally paid you a visit, with an offer
like this she probably hasn’t.
be a real winner, toss this “award” in the trash.
can help you recover your loss from the win that never was”
particularly vile scheme is one that targets seniors who have
already been swindled. Called recovery scams, a con typically
poses as a government agency representative who is working on
your case. A large sum of cash (which must be wired or sent to
him immediately) is needed to conduct the investigation. To earn
damaged trust, he may even provide phone numbers for the Better
Business Bureau or other consumer agency (which are false, of
course). Oh, and how did he know you had been ripped-off? He either
bought your information from the con that took your money, or
was the original swindler.
no genuine FBI agent, police officer, or any other law enforcement
agent will ever ask for payment to do their job.
want to help you pay your bills”
do they want to help themselves to the money in your checking
and savings accounts? Certainly some seniors need assistance managing
their financial affairs. If you do, be highly selective with the
person you choose to help, particularly if he or she suggests
(or leads you into suggesting) becoming a joint account holder.
That person will have as much power as you do to withdraw funds,
and can arrange to inherit every dime in the account at your death.
professional, objective legal advice before letting anyone have
this kind of power over your finances.
seminar will change your life”
Yes, it probably will – by making you a lot poorer. If someone
you don’t know invites you to attend an investment or estate-planning
seminar (often with a prize just for coming), stay home. These
are often bogus operations that market heavily to retirees wishing
to prepare their estate or increase a fixed income stream. Slick-talking
salespeople convince attendees to divulge personal information
that they will later use, or sell expensive but worthless products
bottom line: if you would like to take a class, go to your local
community college or university; if you need investment advice,
visit a reputable financial institution or brokerage house; and
if you want to set up your estate, see an attorney.
doing business with anyone, contact the Better Business Bureau
to verify that they are legitimate. If you’ve been scammed,
report the crime to the police and the Federal Trade Commission.
Nobody enjoys admitting they’ve been taken, but it is important
to take action to stop these people and companies – before
they bilk other senior citizens out of a lifetime of earnings.