Senior Fraud: Protecting Yourself 

The statistics are alarming in fact, may be underreported According to experts on fraudulent scams targeting seniors, more than one in ten older Americans will be victims of financial theft each year to the tune of more than $2.9 billion. Yet shockingly, it is estimated by the Senate Special Commission on Aging that only one in 24 cases is reported. Why so?  

Many seniors either realize they’ve been misled too late, and most unsuspecting victims do not know where to turn for help. Knowledge is prevention in this case; the more organized and vigilant you are to potential fraud, the safer you will be.  

THE #1 RULE: Never provide a stranger with personal information such as your address – and especially your Social Security number or bank passwords or account information. It’s obvious advice, but if you suspect your financial or medical records have been compromised, contact Medicare and your bank as well as the IRS. 

Delaware’s Department of Justice now has a Senior Protection Initiative, which includes Adult Protection Services and Senior Legal Services. 

Medicare fraud is a booming, illicit business. And creeping up quickly on the top ten list of abuse are numerous illegal internet scams: identity theft, sale of bogus medications and healthcare services, investment schemes and more.   

  • Funeral scams – imposters preying on mourning spouses to collect fake debt or “upsell” unnecessary funeral costs. 
  • COVID scams using scare tactics to convince people that a family member is sick and needs financial support. 
  • Fake charities: a scammer calls to play off your good intentions and ask for gifts to help those in need (especially following natural disasters). 
  • Homeowner scams: you’ll get a call for bogus home improvements requiring a large deposit. 
  • Utility scams: imposters call, posing as employees and asking for sensitive information. 
  • Investment scams, including selling reverse mortgages.   
  • Pigeon Drop scams: “You won! You can get this large lump sum, all you need to do is pay a smaller sum now to secure it…”  
  • Asking for passwords to websites you use frequently. The number of passwords we all need to remember can be overwhelming, so it’s worth it to use a password manager such as Keeper or Lifelock. 

Knowing how to protect yourself is essential. Here are suggestions from trusted sources.  

  • Block unknown callers with suspicious numbers. You can also screen them. When they come in on a smartphone, instead of answering, you can press “SCREEN CALL”.  Consider adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry.  
  • Consider if any hearing impairments are making it harder for you to identify scams. In this case (for you, or even for your parents) you may want to consider getting assistance, such a Captioned Phone. (Federal funding under Title IV of the ADA means Clear Captions is able to provide their equipment and services at no expense to qualified users.) (Learn more
  • Don’t open emails from senders you don’t know (don’t be caught with their “phishing”). If you didn’t inquire, then don’t respond. They are click-baiting you. 
  • The typical person has an average of 130 accounts requiring a passcode. Only share your phone password with your spouse or trusted relative/friend in case of emergency. (Read more)  
  • Make sure you regularly have updated and adequate firewall security on all of your devices. 
  • Monitor your account activity and annual credit reports.  
  • Use Direct Deposit when available to lessen risk of stolen checks.  
  • Shred any paper documents that include credit card info, and secure essential documents (birth certificates, copies of driver’s license, etc.).  
  • AARP invites you to call their toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim. They also offer several articles on safeguarding on their website. 

RESOURCES, a video series for seniors and caregivers on fraud protection  

Scams and Safety Page from the FBI with tips and contact information  

National Council on Aging, articles and long list of resources  

Delaware’s Fraud and Consumer Protection Division, legal information and reporting page link on how to identify, report or protect yourself from fraud  

Elder Care Locator, a government resource for local senior services, elder law, etc.  

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