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According to a study conducted by AARP, half of all victims of fraud are over the age of 50.  Seniors are targeted frequently because it's assumed that they have more money and that they are more trusting.  With the rising use of the Internet, cyber crimes are ever-increasing, too.  Whether in-person, over the phone or internet, everyone needs to be aware of scams and how to avoid becoming a victim. 

Here are some recent scams: 

  • Selling fake Medicare prescription discount cards to seniors

  • Posing as familiar companies such as eBay, PayPal or a financial institution to get seniors to give up their personal information used by the scams for identity theft

  • Calling seniors and announcing that they have won a prize, but to receive it the victim is instructed to send money for a "processing" fee

  • Declaring a senior's home is in need of immediate repair, causing alarm for the senior's safety and security

Other common scams include: 

  • Charity scams - Seniors are solicited to donate to a charity, often related to a current news headline to spark sympathy, but the charity (often named similarly to a legitimate one) does not exist.

  • Foreign lottery scams - Seniors are told by mail, phone or email that they may receive a certified check for up to $400,000 (for example) in cash tax-free if they respond by calling a toll-free number.  The person handling the call states that the senior will get the winning numbers to collect $400,000 if they wire transfer a "processing" fee.  The senior wires the money to a foreign country and never hears from them again.

  • Investment scams - Seniors are contacted (often in places such as churches or clubs) about a great investment plan.  It may include a free offer to analyze their investment portfolio.  Typically they offer incredible returns on fake investments, promissory notes secured by deeds of trust or buying the payments on a life insurance policy for someone who is about to die.  The seniors' money and the scam investment "pro" are never seen again.

  • Identity theft scams - Seniors have their identities stolen (bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal information) to get cash, credit or to buy merchandise. 

How do you avoid being the next victim of a scam?

  • Arm yourself with knowledge and be aware that scams abound. 

    • Find out how much of a donation to the charity goes to its purpose and how much goes to the cost of fund raising.  Ask for the registration number and financial reports of the charity.

    • Ask yourself why a company or person with the ability to select winning lottery numbers is giving them to you for a fraction of the prize winnings. 

    • Compare the investment offered to other opportunities to invest with other firms.

    • Never make a buying decision when first approached.  Sleep on it and ask others what they think of it.

  • Keep your credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers to yourself

  • Question anyone who requires upfront payment or fees or only accepts cash

  • Always ask for business identification, address and phone number from a solicitor or repairperson

  • Always ask for written estimates or contracts and references

  • Be wary of something that seems too good to be true -- it likely is