Five Common Scams Directed at Seniors

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“We often hear from members that they’ve received suspicious phone calls or emails,” says Marcia Griffin, Director of Member Engagement at Martin’s Point. “Thankfully, it’s easy for seniors to protect themselves against such scams with awareness and knowledge. For starters, know that a Martin’s Point representative will never ask for your Social Security number over the phone.”

1. Medical identity theft.
If a thief captures your health insurance or Medicare numbers, you could end up having to pay for prescription drugs, medical tests and procedures you didn’t have.

Prevention:
• Do not give your Medicare, health insurance or Social Security numbers to people you do not know and trust.
• Avoid “free health checks” from sources you do not know, especially if they ask for your cards.
• Check your health insurance statements to make sure all the charges are for treatment and/or services you’re aware of.

2. Conning a grieving spouse.
Thieves know we’re especially vulnerable when we’ve just lost a life partner. They scan obituaries looking for victims to trick.

Prevention:
• Ask a relative you trust to help with your finances while you’re emotionally stressed.
• Be wary of phone calls and emails from people you don’t know during this time.

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3. The grandparent scam.
After discovering you have grandkids on Facebook, scammers manipulate software to make it look like you’re getting a call from a police department and demand bail for the release of your grandson or daughter. Thieves might even pretend to be your grandchild, using personal information found on social media to trick you into believing them.

Prevention:
• Be suspicious of anyone who calls asking for cash related to your grandchildren.
• Tell the caller you need to talk with another family member, hang up, and consult with another relative.
• Report your suspicions to the police.

4. The freebie lure.
Con artists sometimes ask seniors to share their name, date of birth, doctor’s name and address, and health plan name in exchange for something free, like a medical alert device or an anti-aging product.

Prevention:
• Know that no organization that’s above-board would ask for this information online.
• Hang up on automatic and unsolicited calls, especially if you never contacted the company calling you.
• Do not pay for an item you did not order, even if the caller threatens to take legal action against you.

5. Counterfeit prescription medications.
These scammers use the Internet to lure seniors looking for low prices on medications. Not only could you waste your money, you might end up taking a substance that doesn’t help your condition, and may cause still more harm.

Prevention: Avoid websites that:
• Have prices much lower than most vendors
• Suggest a different drug for your condition
• Don’t have a phone number for consumers to call them.
• Sell prescription drugs without prescriptions.
• Don’t have a pharmacy on staff you can talk with.
• Are not located in the United States, and licensed by their state board.

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Five Ways to Protect Yourself

1. Know you’re a target.
The sad truth is, scammers focus on seniors, whether they have a lot of income or not. If you know their games, it’s a lot easier to protect yourself.

2. Do not share your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare or other personal information with anyone you did not call yourself, or with unexpected visitors you don’t know.

3. Ask solicitors for printed information before you buy or donate.
If you get an unexpected call or visit asking you to make a purchase or give money to a charity, be suspicious.

• Ask the representative to send you information in writing.
• Get his/her name, contact information, and business license number.
• Don’t let solicitors pressure you or make you feel rushed.
• Make sure your phone number is on the Do Not Call list to keep telemarketers from calling you. To register, visit this website or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236), using the phone you want to register.

4. Shred receipts that include your credit card number.
Safeguard yourself against identity theft by purchasing a paper shredder and using it regularly.

5. Safeguard your mail.
• To prevent theft of checks from your mailbox, set up direct deposit for benefit payments.
• Don’t leave outgoing or incoming mail sitting in your mailbox.

Where to learn more:
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Learn more about health fraud
AARP: Reporting fraud
AARP: Identifying fraud