According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) “financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered the crime of the 21st century.” There are all types of financial fraud including, investment schemes, lottery scams, funeral scams, and telemarketing fraud. Telemarketing fraudsters often try to sell low-cost vitamins, health care products, cheap vacations, and “free” prizes. Trying to scam an elderly person over the phone, gives the perpetrator the advantage of anonymity as well as the element of surprise.
Although anyone can be a victim of telemarketing fraud, the senior citizen community is especially vulnerable. What makes them susceptible and why are they being targeted?
• They may make poor witnesses – an elderly person may not remember the details of the conversation clearly.
• They are reluctant to report – often times crimes go completely unreported, due to embarrassment of the situation or because the victim isn’t aware of any resources to seek help.
• They have a retirement savings and great credit – a retiree usually has very little debt and a sizeable nest egg, making them prime candidates for financial elder abuse.
• They are polite and trusting – a senior may not want to appear rude to the caller, hesitating to hang up or say no, especially if the caller is adamant.
• They have hope – fraudsters feed on an elderly person’s desire to be healthy and stay young, offering anti-aging products or “miracle drugs.”
What can be done to avoid fraud?
• Never, ever send money to “pay the taxes” on a free prize. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “if a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.”
• Avoid dealing with unfamiliar companies, and if you do, check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau.
• Never give out unsolicited personal information over the phone like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account information.
• Be cautious when considering donations to charity. Many organizations are legitimate, but many are not. A little bit of research now could save a lot of trouble later.
• Be informed! Gather as much information as possible about the company or person you’re considering doing business with.
• Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you,” and hang up. It’s okay to tell the caller “No,” even if he/she doesn’t want to take no for an answer.
It’s important to be diligent and discerning when handling telemarketing calls; awareness of fraudulent activity is the best protection against it. Also, reporting potential fraud in a timely manner can minimize the damage and help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.