Financial elder abuse is when someone illegally or improperly uses a vulnerable senior’s money or other property. Most states now have laws that make elder financial abuse a crime and provide ways to help the senior and punish the scammer. According to NOLO Law For All, financial fraud is the fastest growing form of elder abuse.
Seniors as Targets
The FBI website explains why seniors are common targets for financial fraud schemes:
- They are most likely to have a nest egg, own their home, and have excellent credit.
- This generation was raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits.
- Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed, or don’t know they have been scammed.
- When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses.
Common Fraud Schemes Aimed at Seniors
Health Care Scams
- People will call as health care representatives to gain access to personal or contact information.They will ask for Social Security numbers or other personal information. They might also offer help getting seniors medical insurance.
- Equipment manufacturers offer “free” products to individuals. Insurers are then charged for products that were not needed and/or may not have been delivered.
- Services Not Performed: providers bill insurers for services never rendered.
Tips for Avoiding Health Care Fraud:
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
- Never give blanket authorization to a medical provider.
- Ask medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay for.
- Give your insurance information only to those who have provided you medical services
Funeral and Cemetery Fraud
The Federal Trade Commission oversees pricing issues involving national funeral home chains, but has no jurisdiction over national crematories or cemetery chains. Most states have laws governing parts of the funeral industry, but they are often applied inconsistently.
Tips for Avoiding Funeral and Cemetery Fraud:
- Funeral homes are required to provide price lists over the telephone or in writing.
- Understand the difference between basic fees and any fees for additional services.
- Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing.
- Ask about contract cancellation and refund terms.
- When you make a plan for yourself, share your specific wishes with those close to you.
According to the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center, nearly a third of all telemarketing fraud victims are age 60 or older. The FBI has found that if you are age 60 or older—and especially if you are an older woman living alone — you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Their website offers several examples of what telephone scams sound like:
- You must act now, or the offer won’t be good.
- You’ve won a free gift or prize. But you have to pay for postage and handling.
- You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number.
- You can’t afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer.
Tips for Avoiding Telemarketing Fraud
Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:
- Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.
- Obtain a salesperson’s name, telephone number, address before you transact business.
- Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money.
- Take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you.
- Never send money or give out personal information to unknown persons.
- If you have information about a fraud, report it to local law enforcement agencies.
- Eldercare Locator: 800-677-1116
- INFO LINK: 800-394-2255 (helps arrange and coordinate assistance with crimes)
- Resources for Seniors