Avoid Senior Scams During the Holidays

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Scams targeting the elderly are nothing new, but the holiday season brings out the scammers in force. Con artists know that seniors are vulnerable and sometimes more charitable with Christmas around the corner, and sometimes are more vulnerable because of memory/dementia issues, according to Glenn R. Metecun, CELA, is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.

Here are the major scams to avoid and some red flags to look for to avoid scams before money is lost:

  • Fake merchants. You may receive emails or click on a link to a website that looks like a well-known store. You make a purchase but get nothing in return. The worst thing is that once a vulnerable senior falls for this scam, more is sure to follow.
  • The grandparent scam: Someone claiming to be a senior’s grandchild calls saying he’s in trouble and needs money to be bailed out of jail or else he might spend the holidays in jail. Maybe because of confusion or trouble hearing, the grandparent wires money to the con artist. A variation of this scam is the scammer may claim he is a grandchild and needs money to pay for tuition, buy family Christmas presents, or some other financial need.
  • Disaster relief scam. The vulnerable senior may receive a call asking for a donation to the latest relief (think hurricane, flood, earthquake). Unfortunately, many of these callers aren’t from a charity at all.
  • The IRS scam: The scammer calls a senior claiming to be from the IRS, saying the person owes taxes and to send money, via a prepaid credit card. The threat is that they will be arrested or a lien will be placed on their home.

Red Flags and Ways to Avoid Scams:

  • Do not respond to any phone call asking for money. Just hang up. If you are not at your parents’ home regularly, you can (with their permission) check their phone log.

If you spot a scam, report it to the bank or credit card company, and be aware of these other organizations that can help:

* National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA)

* Eldercare.gov

* The National Center on Elder Abuse

* AARP Foundation ElderWatch

* Federal Trade Commission

* Stopfraud.gov

Glenn R. Matecun is a Michigan estate planning and elder law attorney, helping families plan for life, resolve conflict, deal with loss, protect assets and preserve a lasting legacy. He has been an attorney for over 30 years and practices throughout the state of Michigan.