Written by Ari Parker — Updated: Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Every year millions of seniors are targeted by scammers. In 2021 US consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud, and the FBI estimates that around $3 billion of losses are taken on by seniors. Unfortunately, elder abuse is common enough that it warrants its own day (June 15th) to foster awareness.
This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day the team at Chapter wants to shed some light on why scammers target elders and provide three easy tips to avoid scams that prey on unsuspecting victims on Medicare.
Americans over the age of 65 make up about 16% of the US population, so why do seniors account for about 50% of losses due to scams? To start, seniors are often more trusting and polite. Respectfulness, coupled with a lifetime of building up savings and credit history, make seniors ideal prey. It’s important to note that scammers will not limit themselves to preying on wealthier individuals. Scams are most successful when done at scale, and scammers don’t generally care who they’re stealing from.
Many seniors aren’t aware of how they can report a scam. Others are too embarrassed to report they’ve been scammed or fear that in doing so, they’ll appear unfit to manage their finances. Both of these factors contribute to elder scams lasting longer, with a larger collective loss.
It’s important to always be on the lookout for something fishy. Keep in mind that adults of all ages can be affected by a scam and that reporting your experience will only help others.
There are a variety of scams out there from tech support scams to romance scams—and all of them can be detrimental. One subset of these scams is Medicare scams, which are particularly common, in part because of the prevalence of Medicare among Americans over the age of 65. Scammers will generally avoid naming a specific insurance company and rather pose as a Medicare representative. As a team of independent, licensed advisors, we wanted to share three of our best tips for avoiding Medicare scams.
Beware of any offers for "free medical supplies." Scammers may offer durable medical equipment or a medical checkup at no cost to you because “Medicare will cover it.” These thieves will then ask for your Social Security number or Medicare number to verify coverage for their shipping costs. Do not share this information.
A tactic that scammers often use is calling people to tell them they are eligible for a Medicare refund due to a change in their coverage. These callers typically ask for your Medicare number as well as your bank information. Do not share this financial information with them.
Did you know that scammers can create fake Medicare email addresses? They can even redirect you to a website that looks identical to the real Medicare.gov page. Never log into any accounts following links in an email since this could redirect you to a fake page. Instead, always login to your Medicare or insurance account to update your information and verify your data.