Source from AARP Bulletin by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin
Romance scammers cruise online dating websites, posting hundreds of messages a day. After weeks of cyber sweet talk tailored to potential victims’ responses, schemers inevitably request money — typically via wire transfer — saying they need it for a plane ticket to come visit or to deal with some personal emergency.These cons cost American women 50 and older at least $34 million in 2012 — two-thirds of all the money lost in romance scams. Men 50 and older reported losing $5 million. The average financial loss from these schemes is more than $10,000 per person.
When help is needed, older people are often among the first to open their hearts and wallets. This helps make them the group most vulnerable to scams feigning aid for veterans, needy or sick children, or victims of a recent disaster, says Bennett Weiner of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Most over-the-transom email solicitations for donations are fraudulent. Never give credit card information to telephone or front-door solicitors. Stick with reputable charities whose names you’ve known for years.
After gathering names and other details about family members from obituaries, social media and ancestry websites, scammers call, often in the wee hours. They claim to be beloved grandchildren who’ve been arrested or hospitalized — often while traveling — and need immediate money. Don’t believe it. Or, at least call the grandchild or parents before heading to Western Union. Grandparents of college-aged young people are the most frequent targets, reporting losses exceeding $110 million a year.
Unscrupulous contractors arrive unexpected at your front door, claiming to have noticed necessary repairs while driving by. Some demand upfront payment for materials and then run off with the money. Others do shoddy work like applying used motor oil to recoat driveways. Some make legitimate repairs for outrageous prices. Perhaps the worst are “woodchucks.” They might initially trim trees or clean gutters, but they continue to recommend more repairs until you’re bled dry by them or their “specialist” buddies.
The come-on may be an offer of free medical supplies, a threat of losing Medicare coverage or a promise of better sex with low-cost Viagra. The result can be old-fashioned financial fraud or a specialized variant, medical identity theft, in which impostors get health care services under your name, leaving you with the tab. People 65 and older are prized targets because of Medicare benefits. In view of continuing public misconceptions about how the Affordable Care Act works, experts predict health care scams will become an epidemic in 2014.
These come in many forms: Some are free-lunch seminars hawking questionable financial products or legitimate ones with long “hold” periods that are unsuitable for older investors. Others are pitches from cold-calling telemarketers for “no risk” investments in precious metals or penny stocks. Losses can be particularly high: Older investors who fell for the bait were out an average of $140,500 each, a study found.