Common elder scams

Financial abuse of the elderly is thriving. Advise your loved ones to be on the alert for these common scams:

Government impostors
Individuals call saying they represent Social Security, Medicare, the VA, or the IRS. They describe a problem with an account. Or taxes owed. Then they ask for name, date of birth, and Social Security number for “verification.” They may claim that arrest is pending and money is required. Another variation requests bank account information to “direct deposit an increase in monthly payments.”

Grandparent scam
Someone claiming to be a grandchild calls. They are distressed and say they are in trouble and need a money transfer. Then a “policeman” or “doctor” gets on the phone. They may add credibility by mentioning details gleaned from the true grandchild’s Facebook page. Another tip-off? The “grandchild” will likely say, “Don’t tell Mom or Dad!” (Thieves thrive on secrecy.) Average scam: $2000!

Loans taken out
Scammers can use personal information to secure a loan at any bank. It could be months before your relative finds out a car loan, mortgage or line of credit has been taken out under his or her name. Your loved one could be liable.

Tips for your relative:

  • Never give out sensitive information unless you initiated the contact. Official organizations do not initiate calls. Even an official-looking email with a link to an official-looking website can be a scam. Most legitimate communication comes by regular mail.
  • Hang up immediately if they talk about jail or cutting off payments. Threats like these are bogus. Social Security, Medicare, and the VA do not suspend accounts or stop payments.
  • Put a freeze on all credit reports. New loans or accounts cannot be opened without personal authorization.
  • Sign up with AARP Watchdog Alerts. Go to aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/ to learn about current scams. Or call 877-908-3360.

Concerned about financial abuse?
As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice know how scary it can be to realize a loved one has been scammed. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. We can talk about ways to protect your relative from financial abuse.