Scammers are one of the biggest unseen threats out there, and they are especially dangerous to the most vulnerable—the elderly population. In fact, more than $1.7 billion was lost in 2021 among the sixty-plus age group, a 74 percent increase from 2020, which was the largest increase for any year. As this rate of exploitation continues to grow, it is essential to be aware of the most popular scams and how to detect and stop them in their tracks. With advanced technology and increased sophistication and execution of scams, it will be necessary to protect your older loved ones from falling victim to these costly crimes.
Communication methods of a scammer
Scammers have become more clever in how they communicate with their victims. For example, they may call, text, or send them emails; however, snail mail is still a highly effective tactic among older people as they may not use these forms of communication. In addition, they may target elders indirectly through illegitimate advertisements on TV or the radio promoting bogus services like credit repair, reverse mortgage programs, and health care savings.
The losses the Medicare system experiences due to scams are profound—a whopping $100 billion a year. Medicare fraud comes in many forms, ranging from pharmacy theft, such as drug diversion and drug shorting, to falsified billing and Medicare identity theft.
According to Senior Medicare Patrol, a national nonprofit organization funded by the Administration of Community Living, drug diversion, unauthorized refills, and false Medicare billing are some of the largest scams affecting Medicare Part D (Medicare’s prescription drug plan).
This type of drug fraud involves taking a patient’s prescribed drug, which is billed to Medicare, out of its normal chain of distribution, and diverting it for illegal sales. This fraudulent activity can be harmful to the elderly population as it can make their medical records inaccurate, which could possibly prevent them from being able to refill their prescription.
Another common fraud is when the pharmacy provides you with less medication than prescribed, which is generally not detectable unless you are counting the pills at pickup. The pharmacy bills Medicare for the full amount, so making sure you have the right amount of medication is essential. Avoid pharmacies that want to partially fill your prescription and tell you to return in twenty days to obtain the rest.
If you receive an expired drug, more or less than the prescribed amount, a more expensive one than the original prescription, one that’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or the pharmacy refills a medication you no longer need, the pharmacy is likely falsely billing Medicare. In addition, ill-intentioned health care providers may bill for unused or nonexistent services and supplies such as medical equipment, ambulance services, hospice, or nursing care. Be sure to check your Medicare statements regularly for any inconsistencies.
Medicare identity theft
Medicare identity theft is quite common, and when a Medicare card is stolen, a host of issues may arise. For instance, the victim may receive phone calls from a collection agency demanding payment for services they never received. This identity theft can ultimately prevent them from obtaining proper treatment. If your card has been stolen, report it immediately to identitytheft.gov.
Telemarketing and internet fraud
Older people tend not to be tech savvy, which can make them easy targets for these types of scams. There are numerous internet and telemarketing scams, but here’s a look at some of the more common ones.
In 2021, older adults lost $238 million to tech support scams alone. These involve someone calling and identifying themselves as a technician from a well-known computer company. They will tell you that your computer has a problem, such as being infected by a virus, and it needs to be fixed. They will then ask to gain remote access to your device, where they can steal your sensitive information, and demand payment for the “work” they did. To learn more about tech support scams and how to report and avoid them, visit consumer.ftc.gov.
With this scam, the victim is offered the chance to win big. They’re told that if they pay a “small” up-front fee, they can potentially win a lot of money, ranging from free prizes and sweepstakes to cruises or even a fake—none of which, of course, ever materialize. But now the scammer has your personal banking information, which they can use to cause a lot of damage.
Pop-up browser window
Typically, a pop-up will appear on the computer screen posing as a virus-scanning software that tricks the victim into thinking their computer is infected. Then, they will follow the instructions to download the phony antivirus program at a cost, making their personal information vulnerable for the scammer to steal.
Posing as a legitimate company, scammers will send an email to an older person asking them to verify their personal information. They may also masquerade as the IRS claiming to need information to send their tax refund. (This one is a favorite among scammers).
Intimidation and extortion
These types of scams include a demand for money or property. Sometimes the victim is also threatened with public humiliation, legal action, or bodily harm.
The grandparent scam
You have likely heard of the scam where someone impersonates a family member or friend via email or text: “I am on vacation, and all my money, credit cards, and passport have been stolen! Can you please help me? I am desperate!” The grandparent scam is not much different, except an older person is the target. First, they will pose as their grandchild, claiming they are in financial trouble or have an emergency and need money as soon as possible. Then, they will instruct the grandparent to wire funds to a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram and beg them not to tell their parents.
In another common scam, criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute the victim unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
The scams mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. You can visit FBI.org to learn more about the various scams to be aware of. And if you or your elderly loved one becomes victimized and loses money through fraudulent activity, report it to your local authorities immediately.
This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.
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