Sadly, unscrupulous people often prey on the most vulnerable among us, and too often that means our senior citizens are targeted. Even worse, in some instances these abuses can go unreported. Perhaps because of embarrassment or fear others will think it a sign of mental incompetence, the scammers go unpunished and can be free to find the next victim. Here are a few tips to help you avoid retirement planning scams.
Insurance and Prescription Drug Scams
Scammers can seek out those who are on Medicare or Medicaid in an attempt to induce the victim to reveal their personal information. Sometimes the scammer will tell you that you need a new identification card or maybe that you qualify for a new level of benefit. Whatever the approach, if you reveal your personal identification number, the scammer can then bill Medicare for bogus medical tests or prescription drugs and pocket the money. It’s highly unlikely you will be contacted over the phone or in person by anyone legitimately from Medicare, and never reveal your ID number, which is essentially your social security number as well.
This is one of the most prevalent retirement planning scams out there. You get a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, who may even have the last four digits of your social security number. You are told you owe back taxes or that there is some other issue with a recent tax return. The scammer asks you to verify your full nine-digit SSN, and you do. Once they have that information, they can open false credit card accounts, charge the maximum and leave you to pay the balance. Be wary of any telephone calls from someone purporting to be from the IRS – the IRS almost exclusively communicates via U.S. mail.
There are so many different telemarketing scams it can make you never want to answer the phone. Callers who excitedly tell you have won a fantastic prize, you qualify for some amazing discount on medical supplies or other such random stroke of good fortune are almost assuredly looking to take advantage of you. Somewhere in the conversation, they will ask you for a credit card number or bank account information for some minor fee or other expense. Don’t fall for it.
Mostly going door-to-door, these folks could over promise, under deliver or simply take a large down payment and never come back. If you need work done on your home, it may be best to get references, actually speak with the people who have used the repair person, check the better business bureau and check your state’s contractor licensing agency.
Everyone is seeking better returns on their investments, but if too high a return is promised or a fee needs to be paid up front, it may be wise to be skeptical. Even if you learn of others who seemingly have earned great dividends, you should be careful. Certain Ponzi schemes actually pay early investors, but end up taking all the investments from those who come later. Make sure you know who you invest with and double check, no triple check, their credentials.
This, arguably, could be the worst scam of all. There may come a time when you need a little help around the house or someone to assist you with balancing the checkbook, and you turn to a family member. Be very cautious about adding anyone to your accounts as a joint tenant. It’s preferable to have a power of attorney that comes into play only if you become disabled.
With a bit of caution, some common sense and by keeping your eyes and mind wide open, you can enjoy your golden years free of scammers who are looking to rip you off.