Latest Scams On The Elderly: Be Wary!
Security experts and advocates for seniors are warning of the dangers of scams targeting older adults. Seniors are at a higher risk of falling victim to scams because fraudsters believe older adults have more savings and better credit than younger people, and less likely to report a crime.
According to The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, “fraudsters target the elderly, as they may be lonely, willing to listen and are more trusting than younger individuals.”
Adults of all ages fall prey to financial fraud, but statistics show that older adults lose the most money. What’s even worse, adults over 80 years old lose even more money than adults over 70. For instance, Federal Trade Commission data for 2021 showed the median reported loss from fraud was $800 for people 70-79, while people 80 and over lost $1,500, almost twice as much.
Scams against seniors run the gamut from fraudsters claiming to represent companies offering prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries to imposters pretending to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax agents demanding payment for fake tax bills. The IRS, Social Security Administration, and other federal government departments and agencies say they do not initiate contact with citizens by email, text message, or social media to demand money and personal information.
One government program that’s a popular target of scammers is Medicare, probably because it’s the nation’s single largest health program that serves well over 60 million beneficiaries. Medicare pays for a variety of health services and chances are there is a scam for each type of service the program offers.
There are so many Medicare scams that the New York StateWide Senior Action Council (StateWide) created a Medicare Fraud of the Month to educate older adults about the latest Medicare scams. In April, for example, the organization focused on Pharmacy and Prescription Fraud.
According to StateWide, some of the drug frauds included billing Medicare for:
- Prescription drugs (including refills) that were never picked up, delivered, or even prescribed.
- Prescription drugs (occasionally controlled substances such as opioids) prescribed by a health care provider who a Medicare beneficiary had not seen.
- Medication amounts beyond the quantity that was prescribed.
- Different prescription drugs (often more expensive) than the one that was originally prescribed or issuing a drug that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
StateWide says pharmacies also defraud Medicare by:
- Intentionally providing less medication than prescribed or issuing expired drugs.
- Providing and billing for an expensive compounded medication, including topical pain creams, when a less expensive prescription was ordered by a provider.
- Offering gift cards or other compensation to switch prescriptions over to a different pharmacy.
- Automatically refilling a prescription no longer needed.
- Billing Medicare for a prescription that was not picked up.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) monitor fraud committed by healthcare professionals, and CMS advises beneficiaries to beware of scams. CMS offers the following tips to beneficiaries:
- Do not share your Medicare number with anyone who contacts you unexpectedly by phone, email, text message or in person and asks for your number. Fraudsters can use your Medicare number to file false claims and reimbursement and to commit other scams.
- Only carry your Medicare card, Medicare drug plan card, or supplemental coverage card when you need it for a medical appointment or if you are hospitalized.
To help prevent identity theft, Medicare cards no longer carry a beneficiary’s Social Security number.
Maria Alvarez, Executive Director of StateWide, advises seniors to take a closer look at their Medicare documents, too.
“It is important to read your Medicare Summary Notice or Explanation of Benefits to watch for the names of unknown providers and billing of prescriptions and other services you did not receive,” Alvarez warned in a news release.
If you notice a charge to your Medicare drug plan for prescriptions you did not receive or if someone calls and asks for your information or money or threatens to cancel your benefits, report it immediately to 800-633-4227 (800-MEDICARE).
What’s In Your Wallet?
A popular advertising campaign for a well-known credit card company asks: “What’s in your wallet?” This is the same question that crooks ask but they find the answer by stealing a wallet.
According to Jon Clay, vice president of threat intelligence for Trend Micro, a global cybersecurity firm, thieves steal more than just cash and credit cards from a wallet, they want a driver’s license, too.
Clay relayed a story to AARP about a man in suburban Chicago who left his wallet at a grocery store’s self-checkout. Although he canceled his credit cards, the thief took his driver’s license and used it to withdraw $15,000 from his bank account.
Eric Leiserson, vice president of research and marketing at cybersecurity firm IDology, said the latest and fastest-growing form of fraud is creating synthetic identities. According to Lieserson, thieves steal personal information from someone’s wallet and combines it with fake information to create a new identity. The thieves can use the fake identity to create accounts in the “real” person’s name or sell the fake identity to other criminals on the dark web, which are “hard-to-access portions of the internet where illicit transactions can occur.”
While it’s necessary to have a driver’s license and carry a health insurance card in case of an emergency, security experts advise against carrying non-essential items with personal information in your wallet. The following are 10 of the worst things that security experts say you can have in your wallet:
- A Social Security card. Thieves can use this to open lines of credit in your name or sell it to other criminals.
- Multiple credit cards and credit card receipts. One credit card or debit card comes in handy in case of an emergency. But multiple cards can cause multiple problems when stolen by criminals.
- Checkbook, or even one blank check. It only takes one check to open the door to your entire checking account.
- Work ID card.
- Passport or passport card.
- List of your passwords.
- Gift card with a balance.
- Birth certificate.
- Library card. Clay warns that a thief can check out books and sell them.
- House key. Crooks can find your address from the contents of a stolen wallet.
Besides these items, security experts also advise making your wallet even leaner by taking out other identifiable information, such as:
- Old receipts
- Shopping lists
- Business cards
- Single-use credit cards that are hardly used
- Coffee shop (and other) punch cards that you are not likely to fill up
After removing these items, create a safe and secure storage system at home for them, and store your cash there, too.
In sum, security experts recommend that if there are items that you do not use often, keep them out of your wallet and at home.