Telephone scam artists are very sneaky, conniving, and oh so convincing. They take advantage of older adults who tend to have big hearts yet “get burned” in their desire to help others in need.
Con men (or women) are called so because they gain the “confidence” of their mark. More commonly, they perpetrate their “cons” against seniors to prey on their good and generous natures, as well as their ample retirement resources.
I’d like to help keep you the wiser where common scams aimed at the 60-plus crowd are concerned:
• The Medical Device Alert – Scammers are calling older adults to notify them (fictitiously) that a medical alert device has been ordered for them, but need to obtain credit card information to cover shipping costs, activation fees, etc.
Rest assured that if a family member or close friend truly ordered this for you, all of this information would have been obtained at the time of ordering. You should never get a call of this sort requesting credit card information after the fact.
• Charitable Donations – You likely get many calls from individuals raising money for all sorts of charities including the police or firefighters’ fund, cancer organizations, and even politicians.
It’s best that you contribute directly to organizations you are familiar with and not give out your personal or financial information over the phone.
• Moving-vehicle Citation Scams – One of the newer scams involves a caller advising you that you owe a ticket (parking, speeding, or other) and that you must pay it immediately or you can be arrested.
This simply isn’t true. Before you offer to pay any money, hang up and dial the local office who handles these tickets. They can verify whether or not you owe a ticket, and they would NEVER call you to pay your ticket over the phone with threats of incarceration.
• Internal Revenue Service Scams – Scammers know most people fear not complying with the IRS, and they try to use that fear against you! Scammers will pose as IRS representatives insisting you owe the tax payments to the IRS and demanding immediate payment by phone.
If this happens to you, the IRS has set forth specific instructions: First call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to find out if you indeed owe any taxes. If you don’t owe any taxes, the IRS requests you file a formal complaint by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
• Family Emergency Scam – I actually witnessed an elderly woman in the grocery store one time trying to send money to a relative who apparently was in trouble. The clerk asked her if she had tried calling the relative to confirm the story. Sure enough, she was being scammed. The relative was not in any trouble at all.
Any time you get a call from a professed relative urgently requesting that you wire money for medical treatment, jail bond, or even a loan, you should hang up and try to contact that individual directly or ask mutual friends or family about their actual whereabouts. Chances are, you’ll escape a potential scam!
The bottom line is that rarely would a legitimate organization call you requesting your personal information and credit card or bank information over the phone. If you ever get one of these calls simply hang up and look up the number to the organization. Call them directly and they can confirm the legitimacy of the call.
Sometimes You Have to See it to Believe It
Once while traveling in Morocco with my wife Christie, we we stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant. No menu was offered, but the restaurant owner said he could fix us some lamb kabobs, and a salad. We had a great lunch until we got the bill. We owed $67 for what should have totaled $12.
This was a small rip-off compared to some. But it still made me mad, and embarrassed that I let it happen. You’ve worked way too hard for your money to simply give it away to those looking to cheat the system and cheat you! If you’re ever uncomfortable with a situation, enlist the help of a family member or friend before you even consider letting a criminal gain access to your retirement nest egg.
As for myself, I’m more aware of the potential to be duped. While I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, I’m still not a sucker. Let’s face it; the day when scam artists stop trying to horn in on your rightful property is the day when pigs fly — (not when goats climb trees).
Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit www.MediGapAdvisors.com.