Columbus, OH (June 14, 2017) – June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, but BBB wants seniors to be wary of common scams targeting consumers 65 and older throughout the year. From The Grandparent Scam to Financial Scams, both seniors and their caretakers should be aware of scams in the Central Ohio area.
The following are popular scams designed to trick consumers, especially older generations, into giving up their money, property or personal information:
The Grandparent Scam: Scammers call an older person and say something such as, “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” Responding with a name will allow the scammer to be able to establish a false identity, then ask for money to solve some unexpected problem. They may say, “I’m stranded on spring break,” or “I’ve been arrested” or “hospitalized” and need money for medical purposes, to get out of jail, or to get back home. They’ll generally ask for payments to be paid via Western Union, MoneyGram, MoneyPak cards, or other untraceable methods. They’ll also usually state that his or her voice sounds different due to the accident or crisis, and ask that the grandparent not tell their parents.
Door-to-Door Sales Scams: People go door-to-door and offer extraordinarily low prices for home improvement work, often stating the offer is only good at that moment. Door-to-door salespeople are often transient, and if you’re unsatisfied with the work or don’t receive the products you paid for in advance, there may be no way of finding them to get your money back. Check with BBB on all companies before doing business at bbb.org or by calling 614-486-6336.
Charitable Donations Scams: Con artists claiming to work with a charity will ask for donations or money for raffles. Make donations only to charities that you are familiar with, and whose report you’ve checked with BBB’s Charity website. Don’t give into high-pressure situations. Trustworthy charities will give donors time to think about their charitable gifts. When you do make a donation to a charity, do research on how your donation is going to be used and if there is a portion that goes to something other than the cause you’re donating to.
Counterfeit Check Scams: While there are many variations of the fake check scam, scammers will often send a legitimate-looking check and ask you to deposit it into your bank account and wire a portion back to them. They may say that you’ve won money but need to pay a portion for taxes, or they offer you a “mystery shopping” job and say they’re paying you in advance, but a particular dollar amount needs to be returned and “you keep the rest.” In reality, the money you wired cannot be returned to you and the check they sent is going to bounce. If you deposit the check and withdraw any portion of it, you’ll be responsible for paying back your bank the entire amount, plus any overdraft fees.
Health Care Fraud Scams: Scammers will call or e-mail misrepresenting themselves as Medicare or insurance representatives, stating they will be sending a new card or announcing a new plan and stating personal information is necessary. Sometimes, they’ll falsely state that an initial payment needs to be made for the new card or plan. Scammers are simply attempting to get personal or financial information and scam you out of money.
Telemarketing Fraud: Telemarketing scams usually involve offers of free or low-cost products or devices, bogus health care products (such as supplemental insurance or prescription cards) and inexpensive vacation offers. Those who are 60 years of age and older and who live alone are special targets. Never give personal or financial information over the phone to someone you don’t know, and make sure you are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry through the FTC. Report soliciting or suspicious phone calls to the FTC as well. In most cases, you don’t need to know who called you or where they’re located, you only need the phone number to report.
Investment Schemes: After retirement, the plans you’ve made for how you’re going to spend your time and money finally come to life. Scammers target seniors at this time because they know they’re retired and making plans to safeguard finances for their later years. Be wary of pyramid schemes, investment schemes promising quick and plentiful returns, advance-fee schemes and foreign letter fraud schemes.
Travel Scams: Travel offers come by mail, phone, fax, and e-mail, and offer cheap rates, freebies, and promotions for travel packages or vacation clubs accompanied by “free” restaurant gift certificates, gas cards, or other gifts for attending presentations. These presentations obligate you to sit through high-pressure sales pitches. Know that it is unlikely you will get a refund once you sign a contract. Also, be especially wary of timeshare sales, resale and timeshare donation offers.
Can Your Hear Me? Scam: Scammers call consumers asking “Can You Hear Me?” or other questions in an attempt to get a “yes” answer. Once the consumer responds, their affirmative may be recorded and used at a later time to say they agreed to a payment or a product.
Romance Scams: BBB warns anyone looking for love to be wary of romance scams. Because scammers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities, romance scams can easily happen to anyone. Many romance scams start with scammers creating fake profiles on social media or online dating sites by stealing photos and text from real accounts. Scammers may claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they cannot meet face-to-face. After the scammer builds a relationship, they may say they have an emergency and will ask for money.
BBB wants consumers to be aware that scammers often look for people who have already been scammed in the past. If you’ve been a victim once, chances are you’ll be called again by other scammers.
General tips for all of these scams and more can be found at bbb.org.
Consumers who have been affected by a scam can visit BBB Scam Tracker to help others by telling their story. Seniors can also visit the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA) for resources.
For more information, visit us on Facebook, Twitter and at bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.