While anyone can be the target of various scams and fraudulent activity, seniors are preyed on—and fall victim—at a higher rate than younger individuals because they are typically perceived as more trusting, willing to listen, and sometimes just lonely.
Fraud schemes targeted toward seniors are often performed over the telephone or through email and text message. They may involve credit cards, giving to charities, health products, investments, sweepstakes or contests, and banking or wire transfers.
According to the National Council on Aging, the number one scam perpetrated against seniors involves fraudulent Medicare claims. Medicare scams can take many different forms, but the most common scam is for a perpetrator to simply obtain someone else’s Medicaid number by fraudulent means and then submit false claims for services or products that were never provided.
In these types of scams, it is not uncommon for the perpetrator to pretend to be a Medicare representative in order to get older people to provide their personal information over the phone, according to the National Council on Aging. Another tactic is for the scammer to provide phony services for seniors going door to door or at makeshift mobile clinics. Afterward, they use the personal victim’s information to bill Medicare and then simply pocket the money.
Common Senior Scams to Be Aware Of
Often time, scammers will use current events and evolving situations to create new scams or implement old ones with a different flavor. For examples, a few years ago, confusion over the Affordable Care Act gave scam artists new cover for trying to obtain Medicare numbers from trusting seniors. Callers would claim they want to help seniors obtain an Affordable Care card and then ask for the senior’s Social Security number or Medicare number to get the process started. Likewise, when Medicare began transitioning to new and numbers in 2019, scammers also found ways to capitalize on confusion related to the shift.
In 2020, perpetrators have used the COVID-19 pandemic to devise new ways of scamming elderly individuals. They would offer COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, such as they Medicare information, even though the services were illegitimate and unapproved.
In one scheme reported by the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, some medical labs started targeting retirement communities by claiming to offer COVID-19 tests. In reality, the perpetrators were drawing blood and then billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services.
Generally, scammers can rely on the novelty of an emerging social, economic or public health event, as well as confusion around it, to develop new fraud schemes that they use on seniors.
Protecting Seniors from Scams in Federal Way
Standard advice for anyone who receives a call from a stranger asking for personal information—including Social Security, Medicare or bank account numbers—is to simply hang up. Other tips from the National Council on Aging for spotting and preventing senior fraud include:
1. Being aware that you are at risk from both strangers and your family members.
2. Staying involved, as isolation can make you a target and also make you more susceptible to scams that prey on your emotions.
3. Always obtaining a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business.
4. Shredding all receipts with your credit card number.
5. Signing up for the “Do Not Call” lists and taking yourself off mailing lists.
If you are worried you were scammed, don’t feel afraid or embarrassed about immediately reaching to a loved one you trust, as well as the police, your bank and/or Adult Protective Services.
Dealing With In-Home Caregiver Scams
Hanging up is a relatively easy way to protect yourself from a scam artist who is a stranger, but how can you protect yourself from a scam artist inside your home? This is a particularly relevant issue for seniors who want to hire an in-home caregiver. An in-home caregiver can provide tremendous comfort and peace of mind, but unwittingly hiring an unscrupulous caregiver can have devastating consequences.
Scam artists are successful because they are believable and have learned how to quickly gain someone’s trust. It’s best not to let anyone into your home without conducting a thorough background check and contacting several references.
How to Hire an In-Home Caregiver
Getting help caring for your aging parent is tough when you want the best for your parents. The most reliable method of finding a qualified home health aide is working through an agency. All professional home health care agencies must be licensed and insured. Caregivers employed through these services must go through a background check and have a minimum level of training or education.
If caregivers are found guilty of negligent or unethical behavior, the agency can be fined or its license revoked, which is additional incentive for monitoring caregiver-client interactions. The hourly cost for licensed in-home health care in Washington is between $20 and $25 per hour.
How to Know if Your In-Home Health Aide is Scamming You
Once you’ve hired an in-home caregiver, remain skeptical and vigilant. If your loved one mentions that jewelry or other items have gone missing, take their concerns seriously. Yes, it might be a simple case of forgetfulness, but it might also be theft. If the caregiver has access to money, either to assist with grocery shopping or to help with paying bills, make sure there are safeguards in place to ensure that the money is being spent where it is intended.
The bottom line is that most in-home caregivers are doing honest work with compassion and love, but seniors who need care are still a vulnerable target. If your loved one is using the assistance of an in-home health aide, make sure you stay involved, visit often and put safeguards in place to guard against theft.
Finding Senior Care from a Trusted Source
At Village Green Retirement Campus, our professional caregivers are dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of all our residents. We have extensive protocols to ensure that the people who join our caregiving staff truly are the kind of people we would want in our own family, in our own homes.