By Renea Dennison, Contributor
Have you or a loved one been a target of a crook recently? Studies show a growing problem with thieves stealing health, dreams and life savings, especially among our aging population.
Scams come in all sizes and designs. The elderly are particular favorites for these selfish creeps. Seniors are often a favorite quarry because older people tend to have more money than younger adults, are less likely to report a theft, tend to trust ‘authority’ figures more, are frequently isolated, and can be more susceptible due to changes in the brain.
Scammers love to find a wealthy and trusting victim, playing on their emotions without a shred of conscience. For instance, a current popular scam is to call and start the conversation with, “Grandma!” The unsuspecting prey responds with a grandchild’s name like “Mike?” and the scammer starts his con. He claims he is in jail somewhere and begs for help without letting his parents know. An amazing number of people have forked over thousands of dollars because they love and want to protect their grandchildren who were, as it happens, nowhere near a jail.
Scammers also come in the guise of business people, assisting you to file your disability or health claims (and stealing millions from the government). They can pretend to be in-home health services where they get paid while you are left without the services. Some do enough service to gain trust and scam your savings while you are thinking the person is there to support you. They take money to supposedly aid you with phony credit companies, set up pretend non-profits to care for others while milking you for donations, and even take money for funerals which the recipient never gets. Some people have even been hurt or died due to the neglect of a facility or home-health scam who received money without actually helping the patient. Others have had their dreams smashed when the person they thought would love them for the rest of their lives was actually just bilking them of their life savings. And don’t forget the worker scam where the bill seems to spiral out of control. The list and types of scams are only limited by the creativity and depravity of the scammer.
How can you avoid losing money, and possibly your health, to someone so unscrupulous? I hate to tell you to be less trusting, but we must all be on our guard against such cheaters. Check out the latest senior scams regularly by going to the website for the National Center on Elder Abuse so you are less vulnerable to a new scheme. Maintain up to date contact information on your family members and the professionals who help you, and keep those lines of communication open. You want to feel like you can easily call to check a story out or discuss something with someone in case you are making a mistake. Further, your family can vet your professionals and workers (such as plumbers) for you. They can also watch for changes in memory or math skills which make you more susceptible to fraud.
Finally, increase your financial knowledge. Continue to learn by taking classes, reading or watching relevant programs. These skills not only help you recognize a scam sooner, but can keep your brain functioning at a higher level for longer.
The best advice to avoid a scam is to simply stay alert. Don’t let yourself be lulled into thinking you are safe because of your experience, or past being a target because of your age or level of wealth. Even people with low incomes can have their identities stolen and find themselves facing hungry debt collectors. Keep your dignity and the money you earned. Keep alert!
Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.