The Consumer

Seniors are more vulnerable to fraud

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Senior citizens, according to Jason Alderman, director of Practical Money Skills for Life, are a favorite target for fraud, probably because they are considered more affluent and trusting.

Many Filipinos will probably agree. People have told me they are concerned that elderly relatives are losing their savings, sometimes to their own caregivers.

A colleague said she noticed that her mother was frequently withdrawing significant amounts from her accounts when the old woman had very few needs. She suspected that a young doctor, who had become her mother’s “best friend,” was the beneficiary of the withdrawals. After she took control of her mother’s bank books and automated teller machine cards, the unnecessary withdrawals stopped without much effect on the old woman’s comfort and health.

Several years back, a court ordered the return of property sold by the niece/caregiver of the grandmother of a prominent personality without the family’s knowledge and consent. It turned out the solicitous niece forged the old woman’s signature and transferred huge tracts of land to her name.

Attractive targets

According to Alderman, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says senior citizens make attractive targets for scams:

“They are more likely to have a nest egg, own their home and have good credit; seniors are less likely to report fraud because they do not know where to report it or do not realize they have been scammed, or are too ashamed at having been duped…”

The financial expert says, “When elderly victims do report crimes, they often make poor witnesses because of faulty memory.”

Alderman offers tips on how to avoid common telemarketing scams targeting seniors:

“Be wary, even if callers appear legitimate. Caller ID ‘spoofers’ pretending to represent your bank, credit card company or government agencies may try to trick you into revealing personal information under the pretext of fixing a security breach. When in doubt, hang up and contact the organization yourself.

“You have supposedly won a prize but are asked to pay for handling, postage or taxes.

“Get-rich-quick schemes, like those involving Nigerian princes (or ousted government officials) trying to smuggle funds out of their country using your bank account in exchange for a cut of the amount.

“The ‘Grandparent Scam,’ where someone pretending to be your grandchild calls in a panic, claiming to have been arrested or injured (often abroad) and asking you to wire them money—and not tell their parents because they are embarrassed.

“Soliciting funds for fake charities, especially after natural disasters.

“Companies offering seniors free medical equipment or services. (In the US, according to Alderman, they forge a doctor’s signature and bill and use the victim’s Medicare number to bill the health insurer for unneeded goods or services that are never actually received.)”

Some will even offer to recover money you lost, he says.

He stresses that credit card numbers or any personal information should never be provided, unless you made the initial contact, like when you call your bank or credit card issuer.

Alderman advises seniors to be on high alert for scams. I will add that their relatives should be vigilant, too, so their loved ones do not get victimized.

For the full article, go to http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com. Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter @PracticalMoney; or send him a letter to P.O. Box 194607 San Francisco, CA, 94119-4607

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph.

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