Fraud Protection for Seniors
Seniors are targets of fraud and financial abuse. This could be because people know seniors have money and assets saved up from over their lifetime. In this article we will talk about fraud protection for seniors and how to avoid it.
What is Elder Fraud?
When you combine boomers living longer with traditional pension plans declining and questions about whether social security will even be viable in 20 years, you have an environment ripe for people to become victims of financial fraud and abuse.
Elder fraud is when people target seniors and try to manipulate them to give over their money or belongings. It does not come as a surprise that seniors are looking for ways to increase their retirement funds and are looking into fraud protection for seniors. Several of my friends have wondered if their money will run out before their life runs out.
Unfortunately, senior fraud and abuse is not just the province of the financial industry. It runs rampant in virtually every industry that does business with seniors.
When it comes to fraud, here is what to look out for.
Telemarketers are notorious for trying to scam people, particularly seniors. Even if you have put your telephone numbers into the Do Not Call registry, telemarketers seem to find ways around the system.
My Dad gave me a great piece of advice years ago. He said that when someone calls and asks, “Who is this?” instead of responding with your name, ask the person, “Who’s calling and whom do you wish to speak to?” That way, you have not given up any information about yourself.
If you do speak to a telemarketer, before you consider doing business make sure you get the person’s name, telephone number, name of the business they work for, the business telephone number, address of the business and business license number. Do not impulse buy and do not be swayed.
One of the other major scams dishonest people try to pull over on seniors involves Medicare. The usual scenario is getting a call from a salesperson who says they can sell you an item that will be paid for by Medicare. If that happens, it would be wise for you to call Medicare to verify that they will, indeed, pay for the product before you give the salesperson your Medicare number. As above, the best course is also to verify the salesperson’s business information.
Speaking of Medicare, it is a good idea to check your statements when you get them to make sure you are only being billed for services actually rendered. If you suspect anything involving Medicare, call 1-800-medicare to report it.
A lot of baby boomers have been in their home for many years. That generally means that repairs are going to have to be made and that means having to hire contractors or home repair people. Unfortunately, this is an industry that is ripe for fraud and you need to be aware.
Before I have work done in my home, there are several websites I check to find contractors. One is a fee paid member based site, Angie's List. The remainder are free to search: Thumbtack, Home Advisor and 1 800 Contractor. All of these sites have reviews from people who have used the contractor’s services. And just to be on the safe side, I also check the Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor is listed and how they’re rated.
Before I have any work done in my home, I always get at least three quotes. That way I can compare when it comes to price and what’s being offered.
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Buying Large Items
If you are going to make a purchase in a store, it pays to not only visit at least two to three stores, but also check the item you want to buy online. If you are more comfortable purchasing after you have actually seen the item, take a friend with you who can offer you a different perspective.
I have also found that most stores will deal with you, for example, if you see the same dishwasher in two stores and they are about the same price, you can bid with the salesperson regarding the warranty and delivery, which will ultimately bring the price down.
Keeping Yourself Safe
Here are some general tips to protect yourself in any situation:
- The most important thing you can do is become a well educated consumer. I usually try to find contractors/repair people before I am in an emergency situation.
- Read all purchase agreements, bills of sale or contracts before signing and that means every word. Make sure you know what the store’s policy is regarding returns, repairs and warranties.
- Make sure you know what the contractor’s policy is regarding repairs down the road to work they have done and what they do to make sure you are happy with the work you contracted them for. I usually set milestones for payment and I never pay for an entire job upfront.
- Do not allow yourself to be pressured into buying something you will regret later. The best thing you can do is walk away and give yourself a day or two to think about the purchase.
If you think you have been the victim of fraud or abuse, talk to someone you trust. Believe me, you are not alone. Here are some resources you can turn to for help. It is a good idea to have their numbers on a piece of paper somewhere near your phone:
- Your local police.
- Your bank, if you think the fraud has been financial.
- The Adult Protective Services for your area. You can find their information by calling ElderCare at 1-800-677-1116 or going to their website, Elder Care.
Finally, nothing makes you feel more secure than being an educated consumer. Whatever you are looking to purchase or repair, you can generally find in-depth information about it online.