According to the FTC‚ nearly 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year. Unfortunately‚ seniors are often deliberate targets of scams and fraudulent telemarketers. The three most common forms of fraud are telemarketing‚ home renovations and phoney bank representatives. Internet based fraud is one the fastest growing types of fraud.
The following tips will help keep seniors protected from frauds and scams that aim to steal money or identity:
Do not release banking or credit card information or social security numbers over the phone‚ especially if you did not initiate the original call. Never give out personal information over the phone or internet or respond to unwanted emails
Never give money to persons who say they are bankers‚ police officers or other officials. There is no legitimate circumstance where you will be required to pay these officials‚ if they are not in their official buildings.
Do not allow people into your home unless you know them. Representatives or repair people from your gas or other utility companies should not be making house calls unexpectedly.
Never allow work to be done to your home until you get two or three estimates in writing. There are home renovation scams that promise “discounts for seniors” but actually over charge them sometimes by up to 500%‚ because they assume seniors don’t know how much that job should really cost. Beware of someone showing up at your door to “sell” you a repair job. “I was in the neighbourhood and have some leftover materials‚ so I can offer you a great deal.” This is an example of someone trying to overcharge for a job that never needed doing in the first place.
Never sign any piece of paper if you don’t fully understand what you’re signing‚ even if a relative is recommending it.
Remember that offers “too good to be true”‚ usually are. Ask to receive all offers or prize details in writing‚ so you can read it over before making any commitments.
Check the legitimacy of any company‚ organization‚ contest or person who is asking you for information or money‚ before signing up or paying for anything. Make sure they are registered and or licensed locally.
Beware of charmers. Often phoney telemarketers and con men are so charming and nice that it’s hard to be skeptical. Even if someone is extremely nice‚ don’t throw your caution to the wind.
Do not worry about offending anyone by saying no‚ or requesting information in writing. Legitimate companies and organizations will understand your prudence‚ and should offer more secure ways to make payments‚ or send you whatever information you ask for
If you find you have been a victim of fraud‚ report it to the police. Too often‚ fraud does not get reported because people are embarrassed that they “fell for it” or “should’ve known better”. The truth is fraudsters are good at what they do‚ and if you fell victim to their extremely professional techniques‚ you did nothing wrong. If you report it‚ perhaps you can save someone else from crimes.
It is unfortunate that there are so many schemes and thieves out there‚ targeting vulnerable seniors‚ but if you are cautious and informed you can protect your money‚ your identity and your peace of mind.