BBB releases list of scams against seniors

McDONOUGH — For people age 70 and above, often a word is as good as a handshake.

“That’s why they’re so often the victim of scams,” said Dottie Callina, manager of communications at the Better Business Bureau. “They tend to be very trusting of what people say.”

Callina said many scammers these days are specifically targeting the senior citizen population.

“The worst is the grandparents scam,” she said. “People will call them and say their grandchildren are in need of urgent help. They may not think about it and just send money.”

In a recent Elder Fraud Survey done by Investor Protection Trust, one in five seniors fall victim to financial fraud.

“Typically, they are likely to have excellent credit and own their home,” the release said.

The BBB and FBI have released a list of scams and fraud schemes seniors should be award of. They are:

Health Care/Insurance Fraud: Scammers may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to give them their personal or financial information.

Door to Door Sales/Repairs: Scammers will often go door-to-door offering repair services or equipment sales.

Funeral/Cemetery Fraud: Scammers will attend the funeral service of a stranger to take advantage of the widower or other family member, claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Consumers can now refill prescriptions online, but an unauthorized site with the best price may send ineffective or harmful drugs.

Telemarketing Fraud: Telemarketing scams often involve calls and email offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins or health care products.

Fraudulent “Anti-Aging” Products: Scammer-distributors will suggest bogus homeopathic remedies that do nothing or will use renegade labs to create versions of products which can have health consequences.

Internet Fraud: Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into downloading a fake program. In some cases a virus will be downloaded allowing scammers to steal personal and financial information.

Grandparent Scheme: Scammers will place a call to a senior posing as their grandchild or a relative in need of help or trapped in a foreign country. They will usually ask for cash to solve the problem and ask for payment through a money wiring service.

Investment Schemes: Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings, investment schemes have been a successful way for scammers to take advantage of them.

Reverse Mortgage Scams: Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many seniors own their homes and will send fraudulent letters on behalf of the county’s assessor’s office offering the homeowner to arrange a reassessment of their property for a fee.

The BBB has issued tips to help protect seniors from being defrauded. They recommend finding a business to trust, be aware of high pressure sales tactics and be wary of an unsolicited correspondence — this can include anything from government agencies, credit card companies and banks. Also, use secure payment methods, never send money via wire transfer and do not share any personal information — this includes social security number, bank account information, birth date or address.

“We try to talk to talk to as many senior citizens as we can to get the word out,” Callina said. “We have to do everything we can to protect them.”

To report a fraud contact the Better Business Bureau online at www.bbb.org or call 404-766-0875.