Five common retiree scams

Frauds and scams aimed at retirees and seniors have become big business. Here are five common types of scams and tips for avoiding become a victim.

Note: This article should not be taken to imply that all offers of the types described below are scams. It simply underscores the need to understand, ask questions, and do your own independent investigation before taking any action, agreeing to, or signing anything.

  1. INVESTMENT SCAMS

Investment scams targeted at unsuspecting seniors often promise exclusive investments with exceptional returns. Once the victim invests, the money simply disappears. The victim may be told that unexpected downturns caused their investment value to decline.

These scams include supposedly high-yielding investments in energy, gold, or insurance products, medical cards, time-share properties, or bonds, among others. Often, these “investment” businesses present professional and even verifiable credentials, boasting of established affiliations with known companies and high-profile clientele.

Often the salesperson uses scarcity tactics, claiming the victim must act fast or risk missing out, or even rely on illegal sales tactics like coercion and harrassment.

Early retirement seminars are a common vehicle for pitching scams. A company will hold a seminar, sometimes with a free lunch or dinner, in which a fraudulent or flawed investment scheme is present that will allow attendees to retire earlier than they planned. In one example, employees of a major corporation attended free seminars in which a broker offered investments with 11 to 14 percent returns over 30 years. These returns were not sustainable, and by the time many of the employees discovered this, they had lost a major part of their retirement savings.

  1. MEDICAL PRODUCTS

Many people experience increased healthcare expenses as they age. This opens a promising avenue for thieves. Scammers exploit seniors’ frailty and increasing healthcare needs to employ frauds and take money from seniors directly or through their medical insurance.

Common tactics include offering “free” or “test” products like medical devices or laboratory and diagnostic tests and services to senior citizens, which are later actually billed to their credit cards or healthcare insurance or Medicare cards. Some draw people in with “demo” events in retirement homes, stores, and health clubs. Seniors are asked to fill out forms, and provide vital information including Social Security or credit card numbers.

Fraudulent salespeople sometimes pose as Medicare representatives to persuade retirees to provide their personal information. Unnecessary and sometimes fake medical services are also offered through health clubs or retirement homes and then  later billed to insurance companies or Medicare.

  1. TELEMARKETING

Fraudulent telemarketing aims at senior citizens who live alone or are without companionship at certain times of the day. The scammer uses high-pressure tactics to sell healthcare products, investments, TV subscriptions, travel packages, or any number of other offers. Fraudsters know that seniors often tend to be polite and trusting, making them relatively easy victims.

These products and services include anything from sports subscriptions, discount dining cards, cable or satellite TV subscriptions to hotel room accommodations.

  1. FRAUDULENT SENIOR PRODUCTS

Many seniors are concerned with maintaining their health. Fraudulent products such as anti-aging, memory improvement, strengthening, or anti-disease supplements abound. The scammers often use convincing “scientific proof” to bolster claims of the effectiveness of their products and downplay any risks or side effects.

  1. ROBOCALLS FOR DEBT REPAYMENTS

Robocalls continue to be a common scam despite a crackdown by the Federal Trade Commission crackdown after many complaints from consumers. Prerecorded robocalls claiming to be from creditors, debt collection agencies, or even the IRS often draw in unsuspecting victims. Calls threatening criminal proceedings or legal action unless a fictitious “debt” is paid. The scripts urge the victim to call a certain number to avoid arrest or adverse legal action.

The keys to minimize your chance of becoming a fraud victim are simple: make sure you understand the offer and associated risks, and investigate the salesperson, the company, and the offer before agreeing to anything. See this page for more tips on avoiding become a fraud victim.

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