Helping Your Parent Age: Protecting from scammers

Nearly 7.3 million seniors — nearly 20 percent of all Americans 65 and older — have been scammed. This news comes according to estimates from a study by the Investor Protection Trust. An article at the Huffington Post states that MetLife Inc. estimated the yearly loss to victims of these scams to be $2.9 billion.

The article also brings up a deceptive tactic that these swindlers are using to gain an air of legitimacy. They’re taking to hiring courier services to deliver documents, which require a signature from the victim. As an added bonus to the scammer, this practice also limits the time that potential victims will have to read the documents somewhat. Since most couriers work on a per job basis they are under time constraints that they might convey to those being scammed. Subsequently, the courier becomes an unwilling participant in the scam while performing his or her job.

AARP The Magazine has an entire section titled Scams and Fraud, which is dedicated to articles about scams that target the elderly. The Huffington Post also offers readers advice on preventing the top five scams targeted to the elderly:

The Nigerian Prince Scam

  • Scam: The con artist sends a letter or email with an offer that would pay significantly to the victim. There are many stories used, but the most well-known is that the person sending the correspondence is the son of a deposed African dictator who has access to an untold fortune, but needs money to get out of prison. After a payment has been made, more will be requested with the con artist stating that problems have arisen.
  • What to do: Send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office or U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant here.

The Craigslist Scam

  • Scam: Craiglist is used to advertise the selling of items at ridiculously cheap prices. A meeting is set up with the victim in a remote location where they are then robbed.
  • What to do: A detective interviewed for the story told the Huffington Post, “good places to meet are local police stations or malls. Criminals are less likely to conduct crimes or illegal activity in public areas where lots of people are present.” It’s good advice to follow.

The Prize Scam

  • Scam: The victim is told that they’ve won something, but they must send in money for handling or postage prior to it being awarded.
  • What to do: It’s almost impossible to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the phone. Before you purchase anything or give credit card information over the phone, make sure you are buying from a credible company. Ask for a written offer and wait for it until you buy. If you’re not familiar with a company, check it out with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection agency.

For the rest of the top scams targeted to the elderly visit the slideshow here.

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