The perpetrators of consumer fraud tend to take great care in selecting their victims. Unfortunately, these scammers are adept at targeting the most vulnerable members of the population which in many cases, puts the elderly at a very high risk.
Why Age Makes Someone a Target
Thanks to technology, the modern world moves very quickly. Even younger generations feel somewhat left behind at times, and older generations may be confronted with products, services and methods that are completely foreign to them…scammers take advantage of this fact.
The difficulties are compounded when the elderly realize that they have been the targets of consumer fraud because embarrassment often prevents them from properly reporting the incident. Add to this the fact that older Americans are more likely to have retirement funds and other liquid assets, and you end up with a situation where scammers act with impunity, sensing a big payday with little possibility of repercussions.
Additionally, while younger generations were raised to be skeptical, those who came of age in a different world are more likely to trust the perpetrators of these scams, and less likely to ignore or refuse offers out of a fear of seeming rude.
Medical Fraud Targeting the Elderly
Medical needs grow as people age, making the elderly candidates for fraud specifically related to healthcare. Scammers often prey on people’s fears, and the fear of being unable to afford proper medical care opens the elderly up to some specific types of deception.
Prescription drugs, for example, can be quite expensive and create a real hardship for those living on a fixed income. An offer of medications at a reduced price may seem too good to refuse. However, your best assurance of receiving the proper medication comes from going through traditional channels. You are far less likely to encounter counterfeit prescriptions at a pharmacy, and a brick-and-mortar location means that if you are defrauded in this manner it is much easier to seek recourse.
Another tactic is to offer low-cost or free medical equipment. Scammers in these cases often lead victims to believe they can receive much-needed equipment with no out-of-pocket cost. They offer to file the necessary paperwork with Medicare, ostensibly making the transaction as simple as possible for the patient.
In fact, what they are doing is attempting to obtain your personal information for fraudulent purposes. In other cases, they are simply lying about your available coverage, and you do not find this out until you are left with an unexpected debt.
Other Consumer Fraud Dangers
Getting out from under a mortgage seems like a dream in the later years. On paper, reverse mortgage scams look legitimate. You sign your home over to a company that agrees not to take possession as long as you are alive with the understanding that they become the homeowners after your passing.
While reverse mortgages do exist, they are only valid when administrated by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
Scammers also target the elderly for fraud related to funerals and burial. Making end-of-life plans in advance is a responsible choice, but makes many uncomfortable. Senior citizens in this position may be hesitant to ask questions, leaving them open to fraudulent fees and deceptive methods which can result in higher than necessary funeral planning costs.
Finally, telemarketers find an easier road when targeting the elderly for consumer fraud. They take advantage of senior citizens’ lack of knowledge about technology and make fraudulent offers that may seem too good to resist. Many of these offers are presented as limited time opportunities, giving seniors the impression that if they don’t accept immediately they may end up missing out.
Protecting Yourself from Fraud
To paraphrase an old adage, offers that seem too good to be true are often not true at all. Before accepting any offer, signing any contracts or sharing your personal information with a third party, take the time to research. Contact the Better Business Bureau or another consumer watchdog agency to verify the facts.
Confirm reverse mortgage opportunities with the FHA, and confirm any offers related to prescription drugs or medical equipment with Medicare before accepting products.
In short, protect your hard-earned retirement assets by meeting every offer with skepticism. If you suspect you have already been the victim of consumer fraud, contact a consumer fraud attorney for advice on how to proceed.