"Beware of Scams Against Seniors"
Everywhere you turn, seniors are the target of scam artists and predators, and all of us are at risk when our personal information gets into the wrong hands. In fact, as many as five million seniors in the U.S. are victims of financial abuse each year, and untold numbers suffer household thefts when the wrong people come into our homes under false pretenses.
The bottom line: Never give personal information to someone who makes an unsolicited call or visit to you. Many organizations like ours do require some personal information, and you can always call us to provide that information.
Some of the most popular scams against seniors are detailed on a new website, www.seniorbrigade.com. The website is a service of Michigan's Office of the Attorney General, and it is a clearinghouse for helpful information on consumer protection, financial matters, health care issues and veterans' services.
The website offers three key signs of a potential fraud: a stranger contacts you; you are offered a "great" deal; and you must act right away. If you're ever contacted under these circumstances, the best advice is to say no. The website also details common scams.
Seniors are often the targets of phone and mail scams. In the bank investigation scam, a caller poses as a bank examiner or law enforcement authority that needs your assistance with an investigation. The scammer asks you to withdraw money from the bank and give it to him, promising to redeposit the money. If you fall for this scam, you'll never see your money again.
Companies advertise work-at-home offers, such as making craft projects or stuffing envelopes. They require a fee in advance for supplies or computer software, but what you receive is worthless and you've lost the fee.
You also lose money to "sound-alike charities" when criminals trick you into thinking they represent a legitimate charity. Their solicitation may come by phone or mail, so be careful of any solicitation you do not totally trust. You can reduce unwanted telemarketing calls by registering on the National Do Not Call Registry: www.donotcall.gov, or call 888-382-1222. You can reduce your junk mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service: https://dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action.
Also popular among seniors are home repair scams, such as offers by transient work crews. These scammers offer discount work because they have leftover materials from a "big" job. For your "little" job, like driveway paving or house painting, they require pay in advance. Homeowners are also the targets of scam artists who offer free inspections to determine health or safety problems. In reality, they are the problem, anxious to get into your home to steal valuables.
Unfortunately, criminals are smarter, more creative, and more effective than ever. They prey on our trust and goodwill while stealing for their own gain. Through telemarketing fraud alone, consumers lose more than $40 billion annually. If you're ever a victim, don't be too proud to report the scam. Contacts for reporting fraud can be found on numerous websites, including www.seniorbrigade.com and www.aarp.org.