Seniors Can Protect Themselves from Fraud
When it comes to fraud, the nation’s seniors often look like easy targets. In fact, as CNN.com reports, they’re getting cheated out of billions of dollars each year. From online scams to identity theft to Medicare fraud, there are a variety of ways criminals use to prey on trusting seniors so that they can take their money.
If you’re a senior who wants to protect your wallet or you have a loved one who could be vulnerable to these schemes, read on for tips on how to avoid them:
Be aware of real estate fraud. Your home is your safe haven, but if you aren’t careful, it can be used to scam you out of your hard-earned money. The Globe and Mail explains common types of real estate fraud, including title fraud, in which scammers steal your identity to get a mortgage or line of credit, and property investment seminars, which are designed to lure seniors in with too-good-to-be-true offers.
The best way to protect yourself is to know where you’re vulnerable. For example, if you’re selling your home because you can no longer afford to keep it, fraudulent lenders may see an opportunity to take advantage of you. As this article on selling your home on your own notes, if you decide to go through the process without an agent, you’ll want to have a team of trusted advisors, such as an attorney and title company, to help guide you.
Know the common red flags. Many scams follow certain patterns. For example, a scammer might pose as a trusted individual—someone from a government organization or a loved one—and ask for your bank account information over the phone. Or someone posing as a financial “professional” might offer to fill out important financial forms for you. In its guide on financial self-defense for seniors, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Exposes these scammer red flags and provides advice on how the elderly can avoid them. For example, when working with a financial professional, the CFP Board recommends asking if they’re certified and which regulatory groups oversee their services.
Watch out for Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud occurs when false or fake charges for services or equipment show up on your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN). As the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement recommends, always look over your MSN to make sure each service is legitimate. If you do have a question, it advises you to call the Medicare contractor or your State Health Information Assistance Program.
Don’t give personal information over the phone or online. Many seniors are very trusting people, and therefore, they don’t automatically suspect trouble when someone asks them for personal information over the phone or online. As this article notes, it’s best to never give out any personal details. The article advises seniors (and their loved ones) to get educated about the many different types of scams so that they’ll be able to easily spot them when they pop up.
When living on a fixed income, as many seniors do, every penny counts. Don’t allow any of your funds to be taken away from you due to a financial scam. Take steps to protect yourself so that you can thwart fraudsters before they can steal your hard-earned dollars.
Sara Bell grew up in a family of teachers—her dad has taught high school for 30 years and her mom is a university professor. At EducatorLabs, she puts the lessons they instilled in her about the importance of curiosity and learning to great use. When she isn’t working, she enjoys reading, writing, and knitting.
Image via Pixabay by stevepb