It’s a good idea for people of all ages to be aware of potential scams and cons, but senior adults can be especially vulnerable. Because many seniors own their homes and have accumulated retirement savings, they are a popular target for con artists. Older adults also grew up in a time when people were more trusting, considerate and polite. Con artists, also known as “scammers,” attempt to take advantage of these traits to scam seniors out of their money.
Scams are perpetrated by phone, mail, e-mail, text message, social media and door-to-door contact. Scammers are very good at making their targets feel guilty about saying no. They typically act very friendly, call you by your first name and pretend to care about your family and your health situation, while making you feel guilty for not trusting them.
Scammers also try to confuse you into accepting their offer. They will talk fast, avoid questions, give incomplete or confusing explanations and pressure you into accepting immediately. If you are not completely clear about and comfortable with what they are proposing, either say no or tell them you need time to think it over. Always consult with a trusted friend or family member before you decide.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), common telephone scams include claiming that you have won a prize or a lottery, offering free or low-cost products or vacations, promoting business investments that have low risk and high return, offering low-cost loans or credit cards, and asking for charitable donations.
When you receive one of these calls, the FTC recommends that you ask the person’s name, company name and what they are selling. Also ask them to send you their offer in writing (including all documents they want you to sign), and tell them you will get back to them after you have time to review the information. This is not being rude. It is being practical.
The Housing Research and Advocacy Center (HRAC) warns of several popular housing scams, including fraudulent mortgages and reverse mortgages, home equity loans, foreclosure and debt assistance, and home repair offers that require large upfront payments. They recommend that you ask lots of questions, research all companies you plan to do business with, and get estimates or offers from several different companies.
Remember never to give your social security number, bank account number or credit card information to anyone who contacts you—even if they are asking you to “confirm” the information—no matter how legitimate or official the offer seems. You should initiate all financial transactions and make sure you are dealing with reputable individuals and companies.
Finally, remember this old saying: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.