Phone cons aimed at seniors are nothing new, with an astonishing $36 billion lost every year to financial abuse. And the latest senior fraud circulating is difficult for many seniors to detect until it’s too late. Center for Elder Law and Justice attorney Nicole K. Parshall explains, “There is always a new variation of a phone scam. Scammers are very good at developing new tactics in order to engage with specific types of individuals.”
The latest company to keep an eye out for is Utility Savings Expert, which guarantees to cut seniors’ utility, phone, cable, along with other regular bills by 50 percent. Seniors are invited to share account information from the bill they’d like to reduce. The business then actually takes care of the bill in full, with the agreement that the older adult will reimburse half of the cost by wire transfer only – no checks or bank cards accepted.
After the senior’s funds have already been received, the business reverses the charge to the phone or utility company, leaving the senior liable once again for the full amount – plus the additional 50 percent they have paid to the scammers.
Seniors are frequent targets of con artists, for many different reasons: possible vulnerability, accumulated wealth over a lifetime, and a sense of courtesy and good manners that will limit willingness to be rude to a caller, simply to name a few. Additionally, recent research from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research revealed a decline of one percent each year after age 60 in decision-making skills, further contributing to the possibility of falling for phone scams and fraud.
Just how could you protect your older loved ones from falling victim to quite sophisticated, and quite often believable senior fraud scams such as these? The Federal Trade Commission advises people to never engage in business with an unknown enterprise. Another red flag arises when an organization requests a wire transfer as payment. Screening phone calls and just answering those from known and trusted sources – and hanging up immediately on anybody who calls requesting personal or financial information – is also recommended.
The fact is, many senior citizens fall victim to scams simply because they’re lonely and relish the opportunity to talk with someone on the phone. The St. Joseph senior care team at Home Sweet Home In-Home Care can alleviate senior loneliness and minimize the chance of senior fraud with the help of our professional in-home care companionship and caregiving assistance. Contact us for more information on how we can keep your senior family members safe and sound.