Senior citizens remain target of scammers
BBB warns of common scams targeting seniors
AUSTIN, Texas - Sept. 23, 2011 - Fraud targeting senior citizens continues to be a widespread concern reported by Better Business Bureau. In 2010, more than 2,700 seniors filed complaints with BBB, and so far in 2011 BBB has received more than 1,300 complaints.
A survey conducted by Investor Protection Trust in June 2010 estimated that 7.3 million older Americans — one out of every five citizens 65 and older — have been victims of financial scams.
“Fraud targeting senior citizens continues to be a growing concern,” said Carrie A. Hurt, president and CEO of BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. “Consumers need to keep the lines of communication open with their elders regarding finances and learn to recognize common scams targeting senior citizens.”
Common scams against seniors:
1. Grandparent scam — Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a family member stranded far from home. The caller may use the name of a particular family member. They say they are being held in jail, need car repairs or other assistance and need money wired immediately. The scammers may lace the conversation with correct references to other family members, increasing credibility.
BBB tip: Remain calm and confirm the status of the individual by calling him or her directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking any further action.
2. Bereavement scam — Scammers will go through obituaries and use the information to prey on widows and widowers. They will try to sell the surviving spouse things he or she does not need, or say the deceased spouse had debt the surviving spouse must pay.
BBB tip: Offer help to elderly friends or family members if they have recently lost a loved one and are inexperienced in managing finances. If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.
3. Foreign lotteries — Seniors receive a letter in the mail stating they won a lottery. The letter requests they deposit an enclosed check, then wire a portion of the deposited money back to the company to cover taxes or administrative fees. The check will initially clear, but the bank will eventually determine it is fake and remove all the money from the account. The victim is out any money wired back to the scammers.
BBB tip: Never wire money to someone you don’t know. You should never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes. Additionally, participation in a foreign lottery is illegal.
4. Investment and work-at-home opportunities — Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their income. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. However, what looks like a great opportunity for seniors is really just a great opportunity for scammers.
BBB tip: Always research work-at-home opportunities with your BBB. Beware of investment or money-making offers that seem too good to be true.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
About Better Business Bureau:
BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.
Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities.
Contact BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin at (512) 445-4748.