Beware These Scams Targeting Seniors

Beware These Scams Targeting Seniors

Jul 31 2014

It's a fact: the elderly are huge targets for scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network, 47% of all reported fraud complaints between 2011 and 2013 came from those aged 50-plus.

For Howard Tischler's mother, it began with a scamming telemarketer.

Tischler's mother, who was having cognitive difficulties, was talked into buying excessive auto insurance, even though she was legally blind and didn't have a car.

But it didn't stop there.

"That led to other people calling her over the phone, including someone who helped her pay the bills because she wasn't able to keep up, and that person ended up writing extra checks to themselves," Tischler recalls.

Tischler--who developed EverSafe (formerly eXscan), a security product that monitors for and detects suspicious financial transactions--has seen every scammer's trick in the book in his career.

Here are some common examples.

Car Warranty Scams


A senior is contacted via email, mail or phone with a notice their car warranty has expired, and they're told they need a new one.

Tischler says while it could be true, some seniors may have already bought an extended warranty or don't need another one.

Essentially, the caller "wants to sell them a warranty they don't need," says Tischler.

These warranties are often expensive and stuffed with useless coverage.

Lottery Scams


These scams often comes with a letter accompanied by a sizable check.

The letter says you have won a lottery--sometimes a foreign one--and requests you pay taxes or out-of-state fees, which can be to the tune of several thousand dollars.

But the check is fake, so when you go to cash or deposit it, the bank can close down your account and slap a fraud alert on it.

This scam can also come via phone, where thieves will try to get your bank account information under the guise of depositing money into the account.

Home Improvement Scams


A person comes to the front door offering work or cleaning on a part of the house no one can see--like the chimney, air ducts or roof.

The first step you should take is to ask for references and follow up with them. Tischler says if the person has done work in the neighborhood, go and ask if the work was performed correctly or at all.

To be safe, seek out accredited contractors--don't wait for someone to come to your door.

Reverse Mortgage Scams


Although a reverse mortgage can be a useful tool for seniors who want to tap the equity in their home, it have devastating effects on those who don't understand what they're getting into.

In some cases, aggressive marketers push on extra insurance, attach exorbitant fees and don't explain the terms and conditions.

Prior to new federal ruling, both spouses didn't have to be on the deed. When a spouse died, the other spouse could be left with no rights to the home.

While the law now requires both spouses to be on reverse mortgage deeds, it is not retroactive--although there are some ways to protect yourself while not being on the deed.

To be safe, consult an attorney and research all terms before signing a reverse mortgage.

Senior Security Tips


Tischler recommends seniors create a "circle of trust" with their family caregivers or other loved ones, who can monitor the senior's bank activity and credit card statements to look for any strange activity.

Suspicious activity can include these types of transactions:

    • Large deposits or withdrawals

    • Money spent in places the account holder doesn't frequently visit

    • Missing pension deposits

    • Flags on credit reports



"You hear this too often--but if it sounds like it's too good to be true, it most likely is too good be true," Tischler says.

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