4 Ways Scammers Try To Take Your Money!

4 Ways Scammers Try To Take Your Money!

Last week I defined elder abuse and described who is at risk. This week I want to delve deeper into the topic of financial abuse on older adults.

As we gracefully age, we become targets for some crafty criminals who will entice you to give them your personal information and money. Most of the time we don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late! Here’s a detailed list of the top scams commonly used on older adults to take their money.

1. Telephone Scams on the Elderly

Grandparent scam

Charity scam

If you receive a phone call asking you to donate to a charity for a recent disaster, it is likely a scam. Do your research and only donate to charities you’ve fully vetted.

Government impersonation

The IRS, Medicare, Social Security or other government offices will never call you! For example, if a fake IRS agent calls you with aggressive threats saying you owe money and must pay immediately, it is a scam! The government does not contact people this way and they don’t work this fast either (we all know this from personal experience). Typically, the government will contact you via USPS mail.

Unexpected prize and lottery scams

These scams bait you into thinking you must pay a “fee” to collect a prize you’ve won. This scam relies on you forgetting that you have entered the competition. These scams can come at you via telephone, email, mail, text message and social media.

Tech support scams

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be tech support, hang up! In this scam, someone will contact you via phone, pop-up, or email saying you have a security breach within your computer. They will ask you for your username and password or ask you for permission to remotely take over your computer. The goal of the scammer is to find your confidential information and use it to take your money!

2. Computer Scams on Older Adults

SMS or email phishing scams

Phishing scams come from well-known sources such as your bank or investment company. These messages look legit and prompt you to click on links that redirect to fake websites. Once you enter your username and password into the fake website, the hackers have your credentials and have control over your accounts.

Malware and ransomware

You will see this scam in emails and on social media. The goal of the scammer is to get you to click on a link in an email or an interesting article. Once you are on their website, they will ask you to download some software. Unfortunately the software contains a virus designed to steal your personal information. Sometimes the hacker will hold the information on your computer “hostage” until you pay a ransom. If you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee your computer will be unlocked.

Romance scams

There are a lot of scammers who pretend to be looking for love on social networking and dating apps. These scammers use a fake identity and manipulate you into giving them your money!

3. Fraudulent Business that Target Older Adults

Legitimate services with illegitimate businesses

As an older adult you will be heavily marketed for a reverse mortgage, credit repair, or refinancing. There are a lot of fake businesses that will offer you free homes, investment opportunities, and foreclosure or refinance assistance. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

Counterfeit prescription drugs

Not only does this scam hurt your wallet, it hurts your health. There are a lot of fake websites that are more than happy to sell you counterfeit prescriptions.  

Fake Anti-aging products that scam older adults

Online shopping has made it easier for criminals to sell you anti-aging cosmetics. Unfortunately you might be buying a product that contains arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, aluminum, and biological contaminants. These products are unsafe and really gross!

4. Tricky People who “Help” Older Adults

Caregivers who scam the elderly

It’s natural to trust those who are close to you. This includes hired help and family members or friends who provide you with caregiving services. Unfortunately there are tricky people out there who will manipulate or outright steal your money and possessions.

Financial advisors

While most financial advisors are trustworthy, there are a few rotten ones out there that like to scam older adults. These “advisors” might make trades that line their pocket yet empty yours. They might try to involve you in a Ponzi scheme, promise unrealistic returns, or simply walk off with your money because they aren’t who they say they are.

Home repair

Beware the door-to-door salesman offering to repair your roof for cheap because they have leftover material from another job. Also beware the “repairman” who asks to inspect your home without you asking. These scammers want you to pay cash up front and are not bonded and insured. Never prepay for services you might not receive!

Funeral extortion

Another tricky person is the funeral director who tries to sell you something you don’t need such as a casket when your loved one is being cremated. These funeral directors are counting on you being confused because of your grief and loss.

funky lady laughing while on the phone. she is wearing a yellow sweater and bright orange sunglasses

In Conclusion

While this list was fairly detailed, it is not exhaustive! New methods to scam older adults appear every day. Make it a habit to check the federal agency websites to stay up to date about current financial scams. I want you to be aware of what’s out there!

And finally, I want you to think:

  1. What steps are you taking to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of financial fraud?
  2. Do you have a financial inventory? Are you aware of what you could lose?
  3. Do you have a plan for protecting your finances in the future?

In my next blog I will discuss several methods you can use to protect yourself and your money!

You’re almost 65. Congrats on your Medicare Milestone!

We’ve been talking about Medicare for a few weeks now, but we haven’t gotten to the how-tos yet.  That’s about to change. Today we dig into how you actually enroll in Medicare. 

Your first Medicare enrollment period begins three months before you turn 65 and runs until three months after.  Even if you don’t sign up for any other coverage, we recommend that you sign up for Medicare Part A during this first enrollment period. 

To sign up for Part A, go to the Social Security Administration’s Medicare portal here.  It will be helpful to set up an account for when you come back to sign up for Part B or when you are ready to begin receiving retirement benefits. 

If you are signing up for Parts A and B, the process is the same. You’ll sign up through the Social Security Administration’s website. Remember that if you enroll for Part B, your premiums will either be deducted from your Social Security retirement payment or you will receive a bill. The 2021 Part B premium is $148.50 for most people.

If you are looking for a Medicare Advantage plan, Part D, or a Supplement (Medigap) plan, you will want to compare plan options using a plan comparison service.  There are insurance brokers like Kendall Chanley and Harry Perret here in town who can help you compare options and narrow things down. Once done, they will get you signed up. These services are free to you and it’s nice to have one agent who can help you each year. 

If you prefer to do things yourself or just want to do some exploring, Medicare.gov will allow you to find plans in your area and narrow them down based on what you are looking for and price ranges. I recommend filtering plans by the star ratings (four or above) and then whether you are looking for dental, vision, and prescription medicine access. 

Once you make it through your first enrollment period at age 65 (ideally), you’ll be eligible for open enrollment each year from October 15th through December 7th.  You may also have options to select coverage during a special enrollment period if you lose other coverage. 

Applying for Medicare isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds, but it does require advanced planning and research. You don’t want any deadlines sneaking up on you! Personally, I love using reminders on my calendar well in advance of any deadlines that I have. Maybe one to begin research, one to call an expert, one to compare plans, one to sign up….all before your birthday or November. 

What’s your plan for Medicare enrollment?  Head to our Facebook page to share your plans in the comments!

3 Common Mistakes People Make by Waiting to Sign Up for Medicare

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to retire at 65. I mean, that’s only 25 years away. And I like my job. Maybe that’s you.

Even still, don’t put off signing up for Medicare when you turn 65. Here’s Why.

Mistake #1: Waiting until after you retire to sign up for Part A. 

Why it’s a mistake: Medicare is basically free money. You paid for it with your taxes for the past forty-some years…but still.

Ultimately here’s the deal–you CAN wait. But since it’s no skin off your back, wouldn’t you rather set it and forget it?  Think about that time you set up automatic payments into your savings account or 401k. You may not have missed the money, but when you got your tax forms, you saw the benefit of making a small change. It’s the same here. Signing up for Part A is easy, and makes the process of signing up for Part B or a Medicare Advantage plan much easier. 

Mistake #2: Staying on private health insurance coverage instead of signing up for Part B, without doing further research.

Why it’s a mistake: The plan you are currently on may not provide enough coverage.

If you plan to stay on your current coverage instead of signing up for Part B as soon as you turn 65, you want to make sure that your health plan provides appropriate coverage. We’re talking about a qualified group health plan (as defined by the IRS). If you’ve ever had to provide proof of “creditable coverage” for plan enrollment, this is similar.  Otherwise, you will pay a penalty when you sign up for Part B coverage.  This penalty is paid with each premium payment and never goes away. The longer you are eligible for Part B without signing up, the more the penalty costs. Do your future self a favor and get HR to confirm (in writing) that your current coverage meets the requirements. 

Mistake #3: Assuming that your current insurance plan will continue to be available after you become eligible for Medicare

Why it’s a mistake:  Believe it or not, some insurance plans and employers will not cover you (or your spouse) if there is other coverage available elsewhere. That includes Medicare.  Medicare enrollment begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts three months after.  Start looking at your options early to make sure you don’t get left without insurance unexpectedly. 

Whatever you decide about retirement, make sure that you have the information you need to make good, informed decisions. 

Next week we’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of how to actually sign up for Medicare. Make sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see when the blog gets posted! 

My 3 Favorite (Free!) Medicare Resources

Healthcare in America is…..complicated. Medicare ensures that most people 65 and older have access to basic care for hospitalization and doctor’s care. 

But what else does it include?  That’s a great question….because it all depends on what you sign up for.  Some of it will depend on the specific plan you sign up for but all plans include core services. If we talk about Part A or Part B coverage, a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) automatically includes these same services.  If you didn’t catch our Medicare 101 post last week, go catch up here

I had the good fortune to go through a training hosted by the State Health Insurance Program a few years ago that really opened my eyes to how Medicare coverage works. It was one of my first steps into the realm of elder law.

Since then, I’ve helped clients who are on Medicare and helped my parents navigate the process too when my Dad turned 65.  I wanted to share some of my favorite free resources to find out information about Medicare. Depending on whether you like to keep things old school, or want things as paperless as possible- there’s an option for everyone! 

  1. By mail- When you sign up for Medicare, you will get a Medicare and You handbook that is useful for helping you figure out what is included in Parts A and B. It is easy to read and understand exactly what your coverage includes. 
  2. By phone- As I mentioned above, the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is an awesome program that helps Tennesseans find the right health care plans for them. You can reach them at 1-877-801-0044 or, in the before times,  at local health fairs. Just remember that they are staffed by volunteers and might take some time to call you back.  If you’d like to become a volunteer, they would love to have you! 
  3. Online: Yes, I know that government websites don’t have the best reputation for having easily accessible information. But trust me….Medicare.gov is different. Whether you just want to learn about Medicare, compare plan options, or look for a new doctor, this website makes it simple to find what you’re looking for. 
  4. In your pocket- The Medicare “What’s Covered” App is available for Apple and Android user. You can open your phone to find out if a service or treatment your doctor recommends is covered and how much it is likely to cost out of your pocket. I’m pretty jealous that my insurance company doesn’t offer this. 

All of these options now have online availability (check out those lovely blue links). Regardless of how you prefer to absorb information, I hope you’ll find one resource that is your favorite. We will be polling our social media readers on Facebook and Instagram this month to see what their favorite Medicare resources are…..we hope we’ll see you there! 

Medicare 101: Mastering the ABCs of Medicare Planning

As if choosing health insurance under an employer’s plan wasn’t difficult enough, figuring out which type of Medicare plan is best for you is even more confusing. I call Medicare an alphabet because there are 4 parts- A, B, C, and D. Oh, and you might want to consider a supplement too!  

Don’t worry. With a little time and some guidance, you can master the Medicare alphabet just like you mastered your ABCs! 

First, let’s go through the four types and what they cover. 

  • Part A only covers emergency care, such as if you need to stay at the hospital. 
  • Part B covers regular care like doctors visits, bloodwork, and any other testing or treatment that your doctor recommends. 
  • Part C is often referred to as an “Advantage Plan”. It is administered by private insurance companies, just like an employer’s plan.  It includes Part A and B coverage and may include other benefits as well, such as dental, vision, and prescription drugs. 
  • Part D covers prescription drugs. That’s it. 

When you approach age 65, ask yourself what your current health needs are, what family history might impact future healthcare needs, and what type of coverage you are used to receiving.  Then look at your budget. 

Part A is free for those who are eligible through their tax contributions. In 2021, most individuals will pay $148.50 per month for Part B, although the amount can be higher depending on your income.  

If you anticipate that you will need something more than just emergency and regular doctor’s visits, there is another alternative. Consider a Part C “Advantage” plan or a Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap” plan), instead. This plan will provide coverage for those things that Parts A and B don’t, like such as prescription medications, dental, or vision care.  Keep in mind that you still pay co-pays and deductibles on Medicare, so you will want to look at those amounts and not just your premium when considering your budget. 

When thinking about the Medicare alphabet, I have a little way to help me remember what each part covers: 

A is for an Accident that lands you in the hospital 

B is for Bloodwork they do at the doctor’s office

C is for Comprehensive coverage you can get with an Advantage plan

D is for Drugs (They made that one easy!)

Now you know your ABCs….next week I hope you’ll join us when I share my favorite FREE resources to learn about Medicare before you sign up. 

Nashville Elder Law: How to Help Your Older Loved Ones Avoid Fraud and Victimization- Part 2

Nashville Elder Law: How to Help Your Older Loved Ones Avoid Fraud and Victimization- Part 2

In part one of this series , we provided a general overview of the ways that seniors are preyed upon by scammers and those who would seek to gain control of the elderly person’s finances for their own benefit. However, in order to stop fraud, it’s important to know the specifics. The following post will walk you through questions to ask your loved one in order to discover if fraud or exploitation is occurring.  

1. Ask older loved ones about suspicious phone calls.

Swindlers often cold-call seniors to get personal information. Here are a few common scams your loved ones should be aware of:

  • Sweepstakes scams: An elder receives a call that they have “won” a sweepstakes and must provide bank account information for a direct deposit or send a check to pay taxes on their “winnings.”
  • Grandchild scams: An elder receives a call saying something like, “Grandma, it’s me… please don’t tell my parents.” The caller then claims they are out of town and need to be wired money to make bail, pay for travel expenses, etc.
  • Voter registration scams: Someone calls about registering the elder to vote, asking for their address, birthday, Social Security Number, or a password or PIN code.
  • Healthcare scams: An elder may get a call offering discounts on health insurance or a call from someone claiming they work for the government and need a Medicare number or Social Security Number to issue a new card.

Encourage your loved ones to never give out personal information to strangers (or even people claiming to be friends or loved ones) over the phone.

2. Talk with them about their finances.

It’s a wise idea to meet with the senior’s financial advisors, accountants, attorneys, and other advisors so those people know you and can potentially contact you if they believe something suspicious is going on.

But be careful: becoming too involved in a loved one’s financial life may create the appearance of undue influence. It is important to help keep loved ones from being exploited, but you also don’t want to find yourself the subject of a lawsuit claiming that you are the one committing financial exploitation.

3. Keep abreast of changes to their estate plan.

Check to see if a non-relative has been included as a representative or beneficiary, or if any relatives have been cut out of the estate plan since the last time you reviewed it. There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for these changes. However, they could also indicate that someone is trying to manipulate your loved one.

4. Ask about caretakers or sudden “best friends.”

Has a non-relative, long-time friend, or neighbor started spending a lot of time with your loved one? Do they suddenly have a new “best friend” or someone who takes care of them at home?

These developments could be a sign that someone is trying to work their way into an elder’s life in order to exploit them, financially or otherwise. It might seem innocent enough (and even generous!) for a new friend to “hang out” with an elder and to take care of their medical and financial needs. But because of the potential for abuse, we recommend hiring caregivers through a reputable agency. Obtain reviews and make sure they have the proper licensure and training.

Making new friends and meeting people is fine, and even encouraged to minimize isolation that many older adults face. However, it’s important to communicate with your loved one to make sure they are not giving un-vetted people undue control over their life.

5. Investigate sudden missing items or extravagant new purchases.

It is important to talk with your elderly loved ones about finances so that, if they consent, you can regularly review their statements and stay up to date on other financial developments.

Have there been any large cash transfers? Vehicles suddenly missing or new ones showing up unexpectedly? Heirloom household items that have disappeared? Fancy or expensive new gadgets showing up that are out of character for your loved one? This can indicate that someone has convinced the elder to give them assets or that they have duped the elder into buying something they don’t need.

A strong estate plan can help prevent elder fraud.

Keep an open dialogue with neighbors, friends, and advisors connected to older relatives or other loved ones. The more people you have looking out for your loved one, the less likely it is that someone can take advantage of them without your knowing.

Finally, you should encourage your loved one to meet privately with an experienced Nashville elder law attorney to determine what they can do to protect themselves from bad actors. Having a legal document in place naming a trusted advisor, or agent, to help handle finances can help protect them. An experienced elder law attorney also knows what questions to ask and the warning signs to look for in suspected elder exploitation. If you would like help creating these documents or navigating your next steps, please call our Nashville elder law firm at (615) 846–6201 or schedule a consultation .