Here at AgingOptions we typically find blog stories to share with you from various reliable online news sources – but this story is taken from a flyer that just landed in our mailbox. As part of their ongoing effort to protect seniors from unscrupulous thieves who are always trying to steal their identities and their cash, AARP has just mailed out a flyer called “The Watchdog,” with the subtitle “Beating Con Artists at Their Own Game.” A few of these articles grabbed our attention, and we felt compelled to share them with you – both to help you protect yourself and to arm you so you can safeguard older loved ones who are depending on you.
(If you want more information about AARP’s fraud prevention programs, click on this link to take you directly to a nine-page guide called “AARP Watchdog Alert.” You can read it online or print a copy for yourself or a loved one.)
The first article in the AARP flyer, one that really got our blood boiling, is a warning to veterans, called “America’s Vets Have a New Enemy: Scammers!” According to a recent AARP study, one in three victims of investment fraud in the U.S. is a military veteran. “The bad guys deliberately call former military,” warns AARP, “pretending to be old friends, offering ‘sure thing’ investments, finding ways to steal their money.” According to AARP the situation is getting worse, with a 65 percent increase in fraud complaints from veterans just in the past five years. Fraud targeting American vets has gotten so bad that AARP is launching a new program called “Operation Protect Veterans,” enlisting anyone and everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious solicitations that seem to target those who have served our country. Here’s a link to a state by state AARP website describing this nationwide effort.
The Watchdog article mentions at least four different types of common scams aimed at veterans – but there are certainly more varieties out there since thieves are notoriously creative. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- The “Update Your Military File” Scam: A caller claiming to be from the VA contacts the veteran pretending to be seeking information to update a personnel file. In reality this is nothing more than thinly-disguised identity theft.
- The “Cash for Benefits” Scam: Scam artists offer a cash-starved veteran an immediate payment in exchange for their future disability benefits, but the supposed payouts are worth only a fraction of the value of the benefits the vet would otherwise receive.
- Charity Scams: Callers claim to represent charities serving disabled veterans or other vets in need, but in most cases these “charities” are either fraudulent or disreputable. (Suggestion: always check out charities on a website such as Charity Navigator before you make a donation.)
- VA Loan Modification Scams: Callers contact military families offering to refinance their VA loans, for an upfront fee. Once the fee is paid, the scam artists vanish.
There’s a second scam you need to be on guard against, this one triggered by the recent decision by Medicare officials – finally – to stop using Social Security numbers on Medicare identification cards. This change is the result of a 2015 law, but it is taking until April 2018 for the change to start kicking in. In the meantime, says AARP, “Medicare beneficiaries are getting calls claiming to be from Medicare asking for payment to receive a new Medicare card, or asking them to verify their Medicare number.” AARP warns that these calls are completely illegitimate. “Medicare will never call to verify your number because they already have it,” says the organization. “Also there’s no cost to get your new card.” What do you or a loved one do if you get a call like this? “Hang up immediately.”
No senior wants to be a burden to those they love, and many seniors tend to be proud and stubborn, so your loved one may not tell you they’ve been approached or even victimized by scammers. Our advice is to be on the alert. Watch the mail (or, if you have access, the email) for suspicious correspondence, and talk to the manager of the bank where your loved one does business. You can also call us at AgingOptions and let us provide some sound advice on avoiding scams. And we also strongly recommend that you and your loved one attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. At these popular events you’ll discover an approach to retirement planning that is truly comprehensive, weaving together all the vital aspects of life as you age: finances, legal affairs, medical insurance, housing options and family communication.
We offer these seminars at locations throughout the region, but they do fill up rapidly, so please accept our invitation and register now for the seminar of your choice. Click here for details and online registration, or call us and we’ll gladly assist you.