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Successful Aging: More scams to be on the lookout for

Last week, S.B.’s mother almost became a victim of what is called the grandparents’ scam. The caller claimed to be her grandson who allegedly was in big trouble in Las Vegas and needed money. S.B. requested a column on scams so others might benefit.

Last week, we addressed four scams; this week we’ll discuss three more. The information is based in part on a recent report from the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging which identified 10 tops scams targeting older adults:

Financial abuse

Fifth on the list, financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets. In 2010 older adults lost an estimated $2.9 billion.

Scammers prey on their vulnerability since adults in later life may not always make sound financial decisions because of age-related decline. Most victims are between ages 80 to 89, live alone and are somewhat dependent, requiring help with daily living activities. According to one study, women seem to succumb to the scammers more than men. Perpetrators include family members, home care workers, financial advisors, legal guardians and strangers. Money lost rarely is recovered.

Here are some prevention tips:

• Never wire money to a stranger such as a wealthy Nigerian prince whose mother died and left him a great deal of money. He allegedly needs your help in transferring money, promising you $100,000. First you must wire him $5,000 in advance.

• Don’t give out financial information to a person or business you don’t know. A caller may tell you your account needs to be updated or a long lost cousin claims to have an emergency.

• Never give out your Social Security number. Legitimate businesses rarely ask for this.

• Use complex passcodes. Codes such as” Muffy” and “2468” are considered easy to crack. Passwords should be at least eight characters long and include some upper and lower case letters, numbers and even special characters. Experts recommend using a different password for each website one visits.

Romance scams and frauds

No. 7 on the list covers an increasing number of Americans who use the Internet for dating. Con artists have found a new market that’s not about love; it’s about money, exploiting the loneliness and vulnerabilities of older people.

In a related scam called confidence fraud, the con artists assume the identity of a U.S. soldier. Victims assume they are corresponding with an American soldier overseas needing financial assistance.

Scammers will often take the rank and name of a U.S. soldier honorably serving locally or abroad or a soldier who has been honorably discharged. They may use real photos of the soldier in their profile pages. Romance and confidence scams disproportionally target women, usually between those between 30 and 55 years old.

Some prevention tips:

• Be careful if someone claims your romance is one of fate; that destiny has brought you together. • Be cautious if the person tells you he or she is in love with you and cannot live without you. The person just needs you to send money to pay for transportation so he or she can make that loving visit with you. • Note these scammers typically claim to be from the United States or from your geographic area. They indicate they are traveling overseas for business or family matters and would love to visit you on the way home.

Identity theft

Although this is ranked at No. 10, it is one of the most disruptive deceptions. It drains bank accounts, makes unauthorized credit card charges and damages credit reports.

Identity theft scammers defraud the government and taxpayers by using stolen personal information to submit fraudulent billing to Medicare and Medicaid or receive Social Security benefits to which they are not entitled.

Here are some prevention tips:

• Medicare and Social Security will not call for your bank information or SSN. • A fee is not charged to obtain a Social Security or Medicare card. • Do not give out personal information over the phone. • Review all medical bills for services you didn’t receive.

If suspicious of possible scam activities, call the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470. Also contact the Federal Trade Commission that specializes in many different types of fraud at

Thank you S.B. for your good question. It helps all of us to be more aware and informed.

Send email to Helen Dennis at, or go to

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