Protect Yourself from Scams

According to the Federal Trade Commission, older adults are one of the top targets for a variety of scams. In fact, even though aging adults make up just 11 percent of the U.S. population, they constitute 30 percent of consumer fraud victims and 50 percent of all phone scam victims.

Since adults over 50 years old own more than 70% of all financial assets in the U.S., they are the wealthiest demographic for scammers to target. According to Forbes, aging adults also tend to be more susceptible to financial scams as they are quicker to believe promises and slower to act on suspicions of fraud. In addition, aging adults tend to focus more on the potential rewards offered and less on warning signs, such as the aggressiveness of the scammer, which makes them vulnerable to being victimized by fraud.

Here are some common fraud types that you or your loved one might encounter and ways to protect yourselves from falling victim to them.

 Health-related fraud

Scammers target and try to take advantage of individuals who are conscientious about their health, wellness and longevity. They may push the sale of items like:

  • Counterfeit prescription drugs from a third-party supplier or on the internet.
  • Costly anti-aging treatments advertised at health clubs, retirement homes, or shopping malls.
  • Expensive medical equipment that is never delivered.

Prevention steps:

  • Be an informed customer. Take time to research and compare any treatment or drug prices.
  • Consult with a professional or a loved one before buying any type of medication online. Only purchase drugs or treatments from licensed pharmacies or health clinics.
  • Avoid third-party sources as the substance you buy might prove to be unsafe for your body.
  • Avoid transactions with door-to-door or telephone salespersons who tell you that services (e.g. delivery and installation) of medical equipment are free.

 Telemarketing fraud

According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), telemarketers make up to 80 percent of their calls to older consumers. They prey upon older adults who are well educated, have above-average incomes, and are socially active in their community. Their sales pitches are sophisticated and include phony prizes and fake investments.

Prevention steps:

  • Never give out personal information such as credit card number, bank account number, date of birth, or Social Security number to a phone sales representative, unfamiliar company or unknown individuals.
  • Take time in making decisions, especially for large purchases.
  • Research unfamiliar companies with organizations such as Better Business Bureau, the National Fraud Information Center, etc.
  • Use financial services for intended for aging adults, such as True Link Financials, which offer financial advisory and a personalized investment plan.
  • Sign up for the FTC’s Do-Not-Call Registry. Telemarketers who continue to call you after you have registered are subject to penalties. You can sign up on the website or call to (888) 382-1222.

Home improvement or contractor fraud

Home improvement contractors use several methods of targeting seniors: high pressure phone calls, flyers, advertisements, manipulation, and door-to-door sales. Fraudulent contractors can be effective in making people think their services are needed and then taking advantage of their victims.

 Prevention steps:

  • Be an informed customer. Take time to research, compare prices, and get second opinions before making a purchase.
  • Ask a family member or trusted friend to accompany you to visit your bank, financial advisor, and/or lawyer for advice before making any purchases or investments.
  • Determine what work really needs to be done. Read carefully through the written contract and ensure that the project is explicitly described, including start and completion dates, materials, and labor specifics.
  • Avoid paying the contractor in full before the job is done by negotiating when and how payment will take place before the work begins. Check if the work is fully completed before paying.

 For more information on fraud types, prevention, and assistance, visit these links: