Stamping Out Senior Scams
Senior scams are on the rise, especially since the pandemic. According to the National Council on Aging, older adults lose an estimated 3 billion dollars a year to scams. Seniors are the perfect target for scammers. Many grew up in a generation where folks in general were more trusting. Because of their longevity, seniors are more susceptible to memory impairment, can find technology confusing and are likely to have some wealth accumulation. To add to the perfect storm, as more of our personal and commercial interactions are becoming more automated, scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and often arrive with a disguised identity in an email inbox or text from a friend or family member or banker asking for help with a gift card request or to verify identification. Or, even an “old fashioned” telephone call. I spoke recently to Rebecca Eddy, president of Eddy & Schein Group, Personal Finance Managers, and lawyer, Brian A. Raphan, of Raphan Law Partners, LLP. Here are the top five scams to be on the alert for in 2022:
Social Security Scams: Callers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration call with alarming demands for immediate payment or “you” risk being arrested. They tell you something like “if you don’t give them a credit card now, or go get gift cards and read the numbers to the gift cards to the caller you will be in trouble. THIS IS A LIE. They are also sometimes told not to hang up and not to tell anyone . Social Security will never call over the phone demanding money. It’s a scam. The only time Social Security calls is if you have initiated contact and made an appointment to speak with a representative. If you have any doubts, hang up and call social security back yourself at 1-800-772-1213.
Medicare Scams: When it is time for open enrollment for Medicare, the scammers are calling, emailing and texting to get social security numbers, financial information or insurance data. The guise will be that they represent the government and need information to issue a new card or prevent the loss of benefits. Never give your identifying information to a “government official” representing Medicare. Rebecca Eddy notes, “Also, beware of callers offering to save you money on your Medicare insurance. Their aim is to replace your traditional Medicare policy with a Medicare Advantage policy, often without you understanding the change in benefits.” Call the Medicare hotline at 1-800 MEDICARE if you have any questions about your plan.
Technology Scams: Hackers and scammers are very adept at sending urgent messages that warn of a virus infecting your computer and insisting that you click a link or call a number to get technical assistance. They often pretend they are from real companies like Microsoft or Apple. If you speak on the phone with the “technical assistant” they will ask for your credit card information. Online, if a link is clicked, malware can be installed giving hackers complete access to all the information and personal information, including your banking, on your computer. And, you will not even know they are doing this!
Emails or texts can also appear to come from friends, colleagues or family members asking for money. Never respond to requests for gifts or money by email or text. Always check the actual email address or phone number behind a text, and call the person yourself. You can also call another family member to check on the request — a scammer will use one of your well known contacts but then have a different email address or phone number attached to that contact. Never click on a link or attachment from someone you don’t know and even then verify first that their email address or phone number is correct and matches the identity of the sender you know.
Covid 19 Vaccine Scams: Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line for a vaccine is a scammer. If a “pharmacist” or “doctor” calls, texts or asks you for your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number to sign you up to get the vaccine or booster, it’s a scam.
IRS scams: IRS “agents” call and frighten seniors that they owe back taxes and penalties and will face jail time if they don’t pay up and provide their financial information. Never provide financial or identifying information to a government agent over the phone. The IRS will never call over the phone demanding money. It’s a scam.
Attorney Brian A. Raphan, whose firm specializes in Elder Law and Planning, told me once that he tells his clients that whenever you receive a call, email or text and there is a sudden sense or urgency or a rushed deadline…” IT’S PROBABLY NOT, AND, more likely, it may be a SCAM.” Brian Raphan and his team and Rebecca Eddy and her group are experts and are always available for questions.
Lastly, if you spot a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1877 382-4357) or online at ftc.gov/complaint. Your complaint and advocacy can help protect others.
ANNE C. SANSEVERO, RN, MA, GNP, CCM
Nurse Care Manager, Founder and CEO
HealthSense LLC, an Aging Life Care management consulting practice