Kinds of Elder Fraud to Be Aware of

Whether you’re concerned about yourself or whether you’re an adult child thinking about your elderly loved one in Virginia Beach, it’s natural to think about the potential impact of fraud. Sadly, elderly individuals are often more vulnerable to fraud because people engaged in scams target this age category due to perceived assets held by a senior citizen.ThinkstockPhotos-122486570

If your elderly loved one has substantial assets, he or she probably spent their entire life accumulating those assets. It can be devastating, therefore, if those assets are suddenly lost because of a scam artist. Watching out for potential warning signs of financial fraud can help you spot a problem before it gets too serious, and it’s also worth having a conversation with your family member about the increased risks they face for this kind of behavior.
Many of the most common financial scams seems legitimate on their face value- a honest-seeming person showing up at your loved one’s doorstep may even be able to convince your family member that the opportunity is a great one. However, far too many elderly people find out too late that they’ve been taken by a fraudster.
Scams come in all shapes and sizes, but some of the most common financial scams targeting the elderly include:

  • Health insurance and Medicare programs that seem too good to be true
  • Counterfeit prescription meds
  • Cemetery scams
  • Fraudulent anti-aging/health scams
  • Investment schemes
  • Internet fraud

Ensure that your loved one has a plan in place to protect the assets and wealth they have worked so hard to build. Talk to a VA Beach estate planning lawyer today to learn more.

Medical ID Theft On The Rise

Senior citizens, already uniquely vulnerable to identity theft, are most often the targets of a specific variation of this kind of fraud.

A medical record folder being pulled from the ...

A medical record folder being pulled from the records (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Medical identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it to commit health care fraud,” according to a page on the website of the Federal Trade Commission. “Medical ID thieves may use your identity to get treatment, even surgery, or to bilk insurers by making fake claims. Repairing damage to your good name and credit record can be difficult enough, but medical ID theft can have other serious consequences. If a scammer gets treatment in your name, that person’s health problems could become a part of your medical record. It could affect your ability to get medical care and insurance benefits, and could even affect decisions made by doctors treating you later on. The scammer’s unpaid medical debts also could end up on your credit report.”
“In the last five years, the number of data breaches in the medical sector has quadrupled,” noted writer Laura Shin in a recent article in Fortune magazine. “Last year, for the first time, the medical sector experienced more breaches than any other. It’s again on track to lead in 2014, according to the ID Theft Center. While the health care industry has long suffered fraud by providers or employees fraudulently billing insurers, Medicare, or Medicaid, the medical industry is only just now trying to catch up to the quickly growing threat from hackers.”
The FTC recommends that everyone, but especially older Americans, read every explanation of benefits statement from their insurers. Further, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that people should annually ask insurers for a list of the benefits that have been paid in their name.
“If you think you may be a victim of medical identity theft, ask your health care provider or hospital for your medical records,” the FTC says. “You have a right to get copies of your current medical files from each health care provider, though you may have to pay for them. You also have a right to have inaccurate or incomplete information removed.”
“Many hospitals have ombudsmen or patient advocates who also can help.”

Identity Thieves View Elderly As Trusting Victims

Older people make easy targets for identity thieves.
This is “because they are more trusting and less aware of the increasing variety of scams,” according to the website of an expert on identity theft who offers six tips for helping to protect loved ones from falling victims.
http://gty.im/490785167
Denver-based John Sileo, according to his firm’s website, became “America’s leading identity theft speaker and expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach.”
“Although most of our older relatives have no interests in the complexities of smartphones, computers, the Internet and online banking, many that give it a try leave themselves defenseless against thieves,” according to the site. “The elderly can be easily targeted online or through the mail in old-fashioned schemes to steal their identity and ultimately their money. They are more likely to tell a stranger stories of their past that include simple password reminders. They are less likely to suspect that an interested individual is a con artist and not just a new friend. They can also be conned through the phone or in person by thieves impersonating a representative from a charity or a well-known company.”
These are the expert’s suggestions for thwarting would-be scammers:

  • Online Security. Encourage them to continue to bank in person rather than online and have the bank inform you of any purchase over a certain dollar amount. Also, install security software on any computer they use and keep it up to date. If they do click on a link including a virus their computer and information will be more protected.
  • Freeze their credit. A credit freeze is the fastest and easiest way to protect yourself from identity theft. A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, that they won’t allow new accounts to be attached to your name or Social Security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time.
  • Credit Check and Monitoring Service. If you are not going to do a credit freeze, then frequently check their credit report with them to make sure they understand if any new accounts have been opened.
  • Opt Out. Have them opt out of junk mail that comes from financial institutions. They can do this by going to www.OptOutPreScreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688.
  • Buy them a shredder. By shredding anything that has their name, address, birthday, social security number, or account numbers they will be less likely to have their identity stolen through the trash. Teach them what to shred and make it convenient.
  • Keep them Informed. By staying current on the newest scams and social engineering techniques you can not only protect yourself, but also you can protect others.

Government Website Focuses On Elder Abuse

Growing older shouldn’t mean growing more vulnerable, but it often does.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers some excellent general information on the subject of elder abuse, while acknowledging that laws and terminology related to the problem vary considerably from state to state.
“Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected and exploited,” according to the website. “Many victims are people who are older, frail and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men, and may be family members, friends, or ‘trusted others.’
“In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws.”
The site offers advice on possible “telltale signs” that such abuse is taking place:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

“Most importantly, be alert,” the site advises. “The suffering is often in silence. If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.
“Remember, it is not your role to verify that abuse is occurring, only to alert others of your suspicions.”