Bureau's advice for scams that target senior citizens

Published on Saturday, 26 April 2014 23:15 - Written by Leo Rossler Social Security

Fraud targeting senior citizens is a growing concern as millions have fallen victim to scammers. BBB encourages families to keep the lines of communication open with their elders regarding finances and to recognize some common cons targeting senior citizens.

Having a serious conversation with senior citizens about how they manage their money is not easy, but is vital in helping to keep from being swindled.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open so you can identify suspicious spending habits and help them recognize the red flags of common rip-offs.

BBB warns against these scams that commonly target senior citizens:

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Typically, the victim receives a letter in the mail stating they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. The letter instructs the victim to deposit an enclosed check, and then wire a portion back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. The victim is out whatever they wired back to the scammers — often amounting to thousands of dollars.

BBB Advice: Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.

Medicare Scams: Navigating the Medicare system isn’t easy, and some scammers will look for any opportunity to take advantage of the confusion. Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers. The victim might be given any number of excuses and are tricked into providing this information.

BBB Advice: Remind your elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. If you suspect fraud contact your local police or the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS.

Bereavement Scams: Scammers will often take advantage of the increased vulnerability of senior citizens who have recently lost a loved one. Some even search for victims in the obituaries.

BBB Advice: Offer help to elderly family members if they have recently lost a loved one and are inexperienced in managing finances. If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.

Deceptive Professionals: While many scams targeting senior citizens might not have a face, some scammers will be invited in the front door including technicians, contractors, and other services. Some professionals will lie about the extent of the problem or claim safety issues and then inflate prices for unsuspecting senior customers.

BBB Advice: Find professionals you can trust by checking out BBB’s directory of Accredited Businesses. Always research a company with BBB before you hand over any money and report any deceptive services to your BBB, local law enforcement and the state attorney general.


For more advice on avoiding scams and fraud visit: www.bbb.org/us/ consumer-tips-scams/ To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373.