Seniors are at high risk of being targeted by scams due to increased health needs and accumulated assets, savings, or income.
Learn about the types of scams that target seniors to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors from becoming victims.
Types of Scams
- Government Agency Scams:
Scammers call demanding personal or financial information claiming to be government agencies like Social Security, Medicare, or the IRS
Technological advances allow scammers to “spoof” numbers to look like they are calling from a particular location.
- While scams can occur year-round, scammers take advantage of important deadlines such as:
– Tax Season
– Open Enrollment
– Issuing new Medicare cards
Why are these scams so common?
Large government programs have complicated rules and procedures. Seniors fear getting in trouble and losing benefits they need to remain stable.
Nearly all seniors receive Medicare and rely on it for crucial health care.
Medicare is an entitlement – meaning you must receive written, timely notice before any changes are made to your benefits.
Medicare will NEVER call you and demand immediate payment. Everything is done on paper or in-person
Scammers are working 24/7, but they are particularly active in the fall during Medicare Open Enrollment (Oct 15 – Dec 7).
Common Schemes include:
- Door to Door Agents
- Agents often cold call or go door-to-door promising the best Advantage plans
- The agents may not be legitimate or may offer plans that fail to meet your needs (e.g. Does the plan include your providers/networks?)
- Medicare Imposters
- Individuals calling from Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services asking for personal information.
- Health Care Agencies
- Salespersons from medical equipment companies or home health agencies promising free equipment or services
Tips to protect yourself:
- NEVER give out your private information over the phone (including partial information like last 4 digits of your Social Security Number).
- If you have an ongoing case with Social Security or Medicare, demand written notice and asks for an option to discuss the issue in-person
- Your new Medicare Number should still be protected!
- NEVER sign blank forms for insurance, services, or medical equipment.
- ALWAYS review quarterly Medicare notices and report fraudulent activity.
- ALWAYS use a reliable source to renew or change your Medicare benefits.
- Questions? Contact: Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), 1-800-Medicare or a TRUSTED, certified agent/broker available year-round.
Social Security Scams
- Similar to Medicare scams, seniors will receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration asking for personal information.
- Caller ID will provide Social Security’s actual number
- More calls are being made by live people (versus robocalls). Some callers claim to be law enforcement claiming your Social Security Number was associated with a crime.
- Callers threaten to suspend your Social Security Number or terminate your benefits unless you provide personal or financial information.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Social Security will NEVER call you at random.
- Legally, Social Security must send you written notice if there are any changes to your benefits.
- You will receive a letter if SSA needs to talk to you. The letter will provide the date, time of the call and the name of the caller on Social Security Administration letterhead
- Never provide your Social Security Number (or even part of your SSN)
- Social Security Numbers will never be suspended
- When in doubt, visit the Social Security Administation in person or check your benefits on socialsecurity.gov/myssa.
Other Scams and Exploitation
“Stranger Danger” is not enough! Seniors often lose money due to schemes involving family, friends, or caregivers.
- Grandparent Scam – Someone calling on behalf of a child or other relative claims they need money immediately (usually via wire transfer or overnight courier).
- Sweetheart Scam – A con artist begins a friendship or relationship with a senior, often incapacitated, to win over their trust.
- Financial Exploitation – A person, usually a caregiver or loved one, takes the assets of another person without their knowledge or consent.
- Adult daughter uses mom’s debit card to buy groceries – She spends $50 on groceries and $150 on clothes for herself.
- Son forges his mom’s signature on checks to “help her out.”
- Step-daughter takes keys of her step-father’s car while he’s in a nursing home recovering from a stroke and refuses to give the car back.
- Nephew takes his uncle with dementia to a lawyer’s office to sign some documents – a power of attorney and deed transferring his house to the nephew.
- Reduced livelihood: One could possibly lose a house, car, savings, pension, etc. due to actions of the abuser or creditors
- Health Risks: One could lose Medicaid benefits and access to health care due to transfer of assets penalty
- Loss of independence: A court could appoint a guardian if the exploited individual lacks capacity to make decisions.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Discuss finances only with people you trust.
- Ask financial institutions about fraud monitoring services.
- Consider executing a Durable Power of Attorney
- Appoint trustworthy person, who is capable of handling your affairs
- Name alternates to your Power of Attorney
- Do not hesitate to report any suspected exploitation to financial institutions, Adult Protective Services, and/or police
- National Elder Fraud Hotline 1-833-372-8311
Adult Protective Services (APS) 704-336-CARE
- Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) 1-855-408-1212
- Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for Social Security 1-800-269-0271
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 1-877-FTC-HELP
- North Carolina Dept of Justice 1-877-5-NO-SCAM
- Legal Aid of North Carolina 1-866-219-LANC
- Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy