FYI Daily

Top Scams Against Older Adults

Last updated:

January 05, 2012
Wallet found--Daily Image 2011--March 23

Think your loved one's assets are safe? Don't be so sure. Financial scams against older adults are now so prevalent that the National Council on Aging (NCOA) calls them "the crime of the 21st century."

The problem is so pervasive that NCOA has compiled a list of the ten top scams out there. The top five:

1. Healthcare/Medicare/health insurance fraud

Criminals may pose as Medicare representatives to lure older people into giving them their personal information, or they'll provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics. They then use the personal information provided to bill Medicare and pocket the money illegally.

2. Counterfeit prescription drugs

Since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s. Crooks advertise and provide fake drugs to people looking on the Internet for bargains. Aside from wasting money, victims may purchase unsafe or harmful substances.

3. Funeral and cemetery scams

Scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to claim to the widow or widower that the deceased had an outstanding debt with them. Or disreputable funeral homes may capitalize on family members' unfamiliarity with funeral service costs to add unnecessary charges to the bill. For example, the funeral directors may insist that a pricey casket is necessary even when performing a direct cremation. (It's not. Learn how to avoid common high-cost funeral traps).

4. Fraudulent anti-aging products

Fake Botox and completely bogus homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing are common examples. (Safer: These dermatologist's 5 best anti-aging tips.)

5. Telemarketing

As a group, older adults make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average -- making them vulnerable to these very common and hard-to-trace scams. Two examples: The fake-accident ploy, in which the con gets the victim to send money for a relative who's supposedly in the hospital and needs cash, or charity scams following national disasters, where money is solicited for fake charities.

Rounding out the NCOA list: Internet scams, investment schemes, reverse mortgage scams, sweepstakes and lottery scams, and a particularly low form it calls "the grandparent scam" -- in which the con artist calls and says, "Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?" and tries to worm his or her way into Grandma's heart and pocketbook.

To protect your loved one, get to know the top 10 elder fraud prevention methods and see more tips on how to protect older family members from fraud.