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Nolan Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC Blog

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How to Avoid Scams Aimed at Senior Citizens

Financial scams aimed at seniors are on the rise. More seniors are getting scammed today than they were in the ‘90s. The vice has grown because seniors are believed to have a lot of money in their accounts and equity in their homes, and are more prone to trusting so-called “experts.”

The sad news is that a lot of this theft goes unreported because many senior victims are too embarrassed to speak out. What is worse, is that a lot of the scamming (over 90 percent) is done by close relatives of these seniors.

Scamming seniors is not only a serious problem it’s also a criminal offense. If you are a senior or know a senior who has fallen victim to a financial scam, open up to an Alabama elder law lawyer to help you recover your lost property.

What Are the Common Financial Scams Targeting Seniors?

While there are many financial scams that target seniors, a few have gained popularity among scammers. These include:

  1. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams

    Here, scammers notify target seniors, usually by phone, that they have won a sweepstakes or lottery. The scammers then notify the seniors that they must pay a “processing” fee to get the prize money. Scammers may even go ahead to present their victims with a check, knowing very well that it will take some time before the check is rejected. During this time, the scammers extort their victims before removing the funds from their own accounts when the check bounces.

  2. Investment Schemes

    These schemes usually target retirees looking to manage or safeguard their savings. They include pyramid schemes where seniors are encouraged to invest money that will grow at compounded rates in short periods of time, fake fables of foreign princes who need partners to claim inheritance money or complex financial schemes that promise quick money.

  3. Homeowner Scams

Here, scammers take advantage of seniors who own their own homes. They may impersonate county assessment officials and offer home reassessment services to reduce seniors’ homes’ tax burden. These services are performed at a hefty fee.

The scammers may even show up at their target seniors’ homes pretending to be repairpersons. They gain their victims’ trust by offering a free service before pointing out additional places that, in their “expert opinion,” need fixing such as the chimney or plumbing. These “fixes” cost thousands of dollars. 

Tips to Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors

The best way to avoid financial scams is to be watchful. Take note of people who randomly call or show up at seniors’ homes. These may be potential scammers assessing their victims or trying to figure out whether their victims live alone. Inform seniors that they need not stay on the phone with strangers or allow them into their homes.

If a senior receives too many sweepstakes or lottery messages, this may be because the senior is part of a list of potential victims. Request the senior not to call back an unknown number. Let them know that some government agencies such as the IRS only contact people by US mail, not by phone or in person. It will also be a good idea to monitor the senior’s mail for ‘spammy’ mail.

Perhaps the most effective way to protect seniors from scams is to monitor their finances and investments. Call them regularly to ask how they are managing their finances. Be nosy if you have to, but not pushy. Investigate any large withdrawals or payments. Investigate any companies they are investing in or are sending money to. Warn them of the lottery or sweepstakes scams and most importantly, remind them that if a deal is too good to be true, they should call you first.

If you know a senior who’s fallen victim to a financial scam, talk to an Alabama elder law lawyer at Nolan Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC  at (205) 390-0101 to discuss how you can get their money back. 

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