Telemarketing scams alone are a $40 million industry, and seniors are the ones losing the most money to scammers. If they’re living on a fixed monthly pension or on Social Security benefits, it can be financially devastating when elderly Americans are defrauded. Remind your aging parents to never give out personal or financial information over the phone. This includes bank account information, credit card numbers, their Medicare number, or their Social Security number, even if the caller claims to be from a company they know. In addition, one of the best ways to help your aging parents avoid getting scammed is to help them be aware of some of these most common scams.
Watch Out for Medicare-Related Scams
Because every American over 65 is eligible for Medicare, it’s a common area for scammers. Remind your parents that they should never give out their Social Security number over the phone, even if the caller says they’re a Medicare representative. Advise them not to give out any other personal information, especially their Medicare number, even if the caller is offering to sign them up for additional supplemental policies. Also be wary of salespeople who claim whatever they’re selling will be paid for by Medicare. You can report any suspicious calls to 1-800-MEDICARE.
Beware of Calls from the IRS
Be sure that your parents know that the IRS will never contact them through text or by email. The IRS may contact people through the U.S. mail, phone call, or home visit. A common scam is a fraudster claiming to be a representative of the IRS and demanding immediate payment via credit card. However, IRS representatives will never demand immediate payment of a debt, and they will also never threaten to call the police or authorities. Generally, the IRS will mail a taxpayer a bill stating how much they owe. Never give anyone claiming to be from the IRS personal or financial information over the phone or in person. Any payments to the IRS should be checks payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to the IRS.
Be Suspicious of Phone Calls from Computer Security Experts
Other common scams prey on computer users. Bogus computer security engineers call people to alert them that their system has been compromised or is at risk of a threat. The scammers convince people to give them remote access to their computer so they can fix the problem. The scammers may claim they are from Microsoft. Once they have access to a computer, they download software that could take money out of the computer owner’s bank accounts. Tell your parents to disregard calls like this, and never download any software recommended by unsolicited callers.
Be Cautious About Ordering Prescriptions Online
Prescription medication can be expensive; scammers want to take advantage of older people’s need to save money on a fixed income. Criminals use the Internet to promote “better prices” on specialized prescription drugs. However, these medicines are often fake or could be harmful. Be very suspicious when ordering medication online. Always get prescriptions filled by a trusted source instead.
Research Recommended Home Repairs (and the Contractors Who Suggest Them)
Sometimes called “woodchucks,” unscrupulous contractors and tree-trimmers will talk elderly homeowners into unnecessary and overpriced home repairs. Sometimes these contractors will start one job, and then claim to find more urgent repairs that need to be done. According to police, these unethical contractors and landscapers will even cruise neighborhoods looking for homes with wheelchair ramps and older-style vehicles – clues that the homeowners are elderly and “easy targets.” To help your parents avoid these scammers, make sure you encourage them to research any contractors or handymen offering to work on their house. Don’t let them get talked into immediate work. Look the business up on the Better Business Bureau’s website or other reputable site. Ask friends and neighbors to recommend handymen or contractors instead of agreeing to unsolicited offers.
Research Charities Asking for Donations
Scammers often target kindhearted seniors by asking for money going towards a “good cause.” Look out for red flags like pressure to give “right now;” a thank you card for a donation you don’t remember making; and requests for payment by cash, gift card, or wire transfer. Check out sites like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch to verify the validity of the organization.