All too often, scam artists find a good target with older adults. One of the main reasons is simply that seniors are more likely than other people to be home during the day to accept calls or visits. According to the FBI, scam artists also target older adults because they often have savings, a good credit rating, and may be reluctant to report a crime for fear their family will consider them unfit to live independently. The Ohio Department of Insurance reports that seniors attract 30 percent of reported fraud cases and are three times more likely to be swindled.
No one wants seniors to cut themselves off from the world out of fear. But a little skepticism can help protect you. As the slogan goes, you can be "shrewd, but not rude." Here are some tips:
- Do not let strangers into your home even if they claim to be associated with an agency you are familiar with. Representatives of legitimate organizations — such as Council on Aging — will show you proper identification. You should feel free to call the organization to verify your visitor is legitimate.
- If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Don't make a hasty decision because some is pressuring you with a "limited-time offer." Ask for written information and time to think it over. Never accept free medical equipment or services in exchange for your Medicare number.
- Do not give personal information over the phone, internet, by mail or in person to an unfamiliar company or person, even if you are told it is "just for verification purposes."
- Pay only for services rendered. Be wary of any requests to send money or bank account information before a service or product is delivered. Examples: paying in advance for home repairs or asking for your credit card number in order to mail you a prize or to verify your identity.
- Retrieve your mail daily or have a trusted friend or family member get it for you.
- Destroy unneeded documents, such as financial records, that contain information that could be used to conduct business in your name.
- Do not allow someone to write checks for you unless you have previously and formally authorized them to do so. If you need help, contact the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio at 513-721-1025.
- Do not lend money or belongings to someone working for you. If someone runs an errand for you, give only the money needed for the task, get a receipt and count your change.