A number of years ago I had a client who owned a telemarketing company. His single largest client was a National Fire Fighters Association. His job was to have his staff raise funds for the association. His target market were those aged 65 and older. His firm was very good at what it did. It raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the name of the Fire Fighters Association. The only trouble was that 80% of the funds went to the telemarketing firm rather then the association. And that young man who sounded so nice and sincere on the phone was earning a commission for every dollar he was able to get out of the senior he was talking to.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seniors are targeted at a higher rate than any other age group when it comes to fraudulent schemes. Every year thousands of people are victimized by fraudulent scams, but due to embarrassment many seniors are reluctant to report what has happened.
Although many of us have placed our names on the “Do Not Call” list which has reduced the number of telemarketer call we receive there are still numerous other scams in which seniors have been victimized over the years and every year we hear about them re-surfacing.
“3 nights/4 days in beautiful Florida –FREE!”
Travel deals that you just can’t pass up. Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida for free or for just $99? While some of these travel deals are legitimate, many are not. If you are asked to pay up front for your “Travel Package” don’t! Instead ask them to send you a list of any other fees or charges you will be responsible for BEFORE you give them your credit card number. Your free inexpensive vacation may wind up costing far more then you had planned. Know who you are dealing with before you start packing!
“I just finished a job down the street and I have extra asphalt. I can resurface your drive for a great price”
Home improvement scams abound. Many seniors do live in older homes that very well might need some repairs. But be very leery of a door-to-door sales person or a person who has “extra” material. It is better if you initiate finding a company yourself or ask a friend for a referral if you think you need the work done. What you think is a bargain might become a headache – shoddy workmanship, inferior products and no recourse if you are unsatisfied because the workman did the job on the “side”.
“Make hundreds of dollars a month working from home”
Do to the increased cost of living many seniors are looking for ways in which to earn extra money – by addressing envelopes, labeling, etc. Working from home might seem like an ideal way to do it, but beware. You will be asked to send in a small registration fee along with a sample of your work to be accepted. Only you never hear from the company again.
“Don’t you know how to drive?”
Your in you locally supermarket parking lot backing out of your space. You checked your mirror, all was clear, but as you accelerate you hear a crunch. Getting out of your car you are confronted by a furious young man who accuses you of not being able to drive. He insisted that you settle the accident right then with money you have on you. Many seniors do simply out of fear.
“When did I have that test done?”
Medical fraud may be the number one scam that seniors are subjected to day in and day out. Practitioners and providers may bill for procedures and equipment never rendered. Lots of times the patient is unaware. The coding on medical bills nowadays is confusing to most and if it doesn’t come out of your pocket, you may never notice fraudulent practices. Many insurance companies will share in the “found” error savings if they are made aware of the fraud by the patient. Pay attention and you might get paid!
The scams listed above aren’t the only ones senior face. Every day new ones are being devised and old ones resurrected. If you think you are being scammed don’t hesitate in calling your local police or the Michigan Attorney Generals consumer protection office at (517) 373-1140. Always check out the person or company before you sign a contract by calling the Better Business Bureau at (616)774-2014 for Western Michigan. Ask for licenses, credentials and references up front. If they won’t give you an estimate and/or a written contract then pass on the deal. Being prepared is your first line of defense against the scams discussed in this article.
Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions of Michigan. He is also a founding member of the Senior Resource Alliance of Northern Michigan.