A newsbasket is on-line Internet publication containing comprehensive aggregated collections of information.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ken and Daria Dolan's Scams That Target Seniors

Thanks to Mike Gamble, Sarasota, FL for Tweeting

Top Scams That Target Seniors - WalletPop
Top Scams That Target Seniors
By Ken and Daria Dolan, Dolans.com

{ Ken and Dana ask you to Please be sure to share these senior scams with your friends and loved ones so they don't become a victim.}

Seniors are one of scam artist’s favorite targets. More than 25 million seniors were victims of fraud last year according to the Federal Trade Commission. Seniors become targets because they are easy to reach by phone, are often home during the day, often live along, and are often more willing to talk to strangers.
The Dolans
Jamie Koslow, AOL
Today, personal finance experts Ken and Daria Dolan of Dolans.com expose seven top scams that target seniors. Even if you aren't a senior yourself, keep reading and warn the seniors in your life about these scams.
Scam No. 1: Reverse Equity Mortgage Scam
Thanks to the stock market meltdown and housing collapse, many Americans in their 60s and older do not have a lot of savings on which to fall back. Many of these folks are wondering whether a reverse equity mortgage is right for them ... and scammers smell an easy target. The FBI recently issued a warning that reverse mortgage scams have skyrocketed. Since 1999, reverse mortgage scams have increased 1,300%!
Plus, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that many reverse mortgage "counseling programs" being offered are in fact shills for lenders looking to rip the elderly. Of the 15 organizations the GAO investigated undercover, not ONE conveyed unbiased, sound information about reverse mortgages.
A reverse equity mortgage may be an effective way to generate income in retirement, but you must carefully consider all of the pros and cons and be sure you are working with a legitimate company.
More From The Dolans:

* 10 Smart Money Moves for 2010
* Top 10 Tips to Avoid Scams
* Money "Deals" You Should Refuse

Scam No. 2: Fake E-mail From the Social Security Administration
There are many variations of these fake messages circulating, but they all claim there is something wrong with your Social Security benefits and that convince you to click the link provided to clear up the problem. Here's a sample:
"Due to possible calculation errors, your annual Social Security statement may contain errors. Use the link below to review your annual Social Security statement."
The scammers have done a good job making these e-mails look legitimate. They use a ".gov" e-mail address as all government sites use. Some messages even contain the Social Security Administration logo, making them look very official.
Don't fall for it! These e-mails are NOT from the Social Security Administration. Their sole purpose, as with most e-mail scams, is to trick you into sharing important information that will help the scammer steal your identity, access your bank account or otherwise cause you financial harm.
The Social Security Administration does NOT contact consumers through e-mail, period.
Scam No. 3: Impersonating a Grandchild in Trouble
This one is really low. Let us tell you what happened to Rose, who lives in a seniors' community in Pompano Beach Florida, to show you how this one works. Rose received a phone call one afternoon from a young man saying "Grandmom, I need your help, my car just broke down and I need some money to get it fixed."
Recognizing the voice wasn't one of her grandson’s, she assumed it was her granddaughter's boyfriend. "Brian is that you," she asked. "Yea Grandmom, it's me Brian," he replied. "I need your help -- do you think you could send me some money?" Then he asked for $1,000!
Now, Rose is a smart lady and wasn’t quite sure who she was talking to, so she said she probably wouldn't be able to help. "But Grandmom, it's me Brian," pleaded the man on the phone, "I really need your help."
Another popular variation on this scam is the scammer claiming they are in jail and need bail. Wait, it gets worse! If the scamster actually gets money, they'll have a second person call pretending to be a police officer, who will claim there are extra charges for property damage or fines and ask for more money!
The typical take on this scam is about $3,000! Be smart like Rose ... NEVER give out personal bank account info over the phone or send money through a wire service at someone else's request.
Scam No. 4: Home Repair Scams
This scam targets seniors who live at home -- often elderly women who live alone. A nice guy shows up at your door and offers to do some handyman projects around the house -- could be gutter cleaning, for example.
But once these scammers gain the person's trust, they trump up unnecessary work that needs to be done and charge huge amounts of money for it. They might claim your roof needs repair, or that they saw a problem with wood rotting on your porch. Police call these fake home contractors "woodchucks." We expect a slew of home improvement scams targeting seniors to crop up now using the President’s "Cash for Caulkers" program as an excuse to get in the door. Be vigilant!
Scam No. 5: Prepaid Funeral Scam
A funeral can be one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make. A typical funeral costs about $6,000, but costs can go as high as $10,000. To spare their families from expenses and decision-making during this emotional time, a growing number of people are pre-paying their funeral expenses.
The idea is that you pre-pay for your funeral and those funds are held in escrow, in a trust or used to buy life insurance that would cover funeral expenses when you die.
But pre-paid funeral scams swindle millions of dollars each year. In the worst scams, people take your money and run. In others, you simply get sold an expensive package that costs much more than you need to spend. The last thing grieving relatives need is to find out you were ripped off and there is a large unexpected funeral expense with which to deal.
Scam No. 6: Medicare Fraud Scams
Medicare users are a favorite scam target. Some scammers offer seniors free medical products -- all they have to do is give them their Medicare number. Another common ploy is to tell a senior that their Medicare card has expired and they need to provide their Medicare number to get a new one.
In both scenarios, the scam artist steals that number and uses it to complete a form, obtain certification from an unauthorized doctor, and bill Medicare for reimbursement.
Never provide your Medicare number to someone over the phone. And never sign incomplete insurance forms or provide blanket authorization to a medical provider to bill for services.
Scam No. 7: Investment Scams
Although seniors aged 60 or older make up just 15% of the U.S. population, they account for 30% of investment fraud victims, according to the North American Securities Administration Association.
Here are some typical investment scams to watch out for:
· Ponzi scams that promise HUGE returns. We saw a commercial on TV offering an investment that would pay a 40% annual return for MANY years! C’mon folks .. .that just doesn't pass the sniff test!
· Financial "advisors" who prey on widows and widowers -- be very wary of anyone who contacts you offering to help you with your finances soon after your spouse dies. There are unethical people looking to take advantage of you during this emotional time!
· Free investment seminars hosted by some "investment pros" over lunch or dinner. Chances are you will get the hard sell while you are there (or endless phone calls afterwards) for speculative, inappropriate investments.
· High yield investment scams. At a time when many seniors could use some extra money, unscrupulous advisors are peddling products that have the highest yield -- and promising you safety of your investments that just isn’t true.
· Annuities -- there's a special place in hell for people who profit from selling an 83 year old on fixed income an annuity that's not appropriate for him ... "it’s the same as a CD" they say. Thanks to their fat commissions, far too many annuities are sold to people who shouldn't own them. Be very wary of annuity pitches.
Please be sure to share these senior scams with your friends and loved ones so they don't become a victim. And be sure to follow our simple scam prevention tips to protect yourself and your loved ones.