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The Crime of the Century

scams target eldersIt is the “crime of the century” and you have heard of it, but you may be having a rough time remembering it right now. That is, in part, because it has gone largely under-reported, and the bad guys may not have been prosecuted. If you are thinking this is the story about the financial institutions who were responsible for the crisis that fueled the “Great Recession,” you are wrong, but it is a financial crisis.
Those who are 65 years of age or older in this country represent only 13% of the population, but they get a disproportionately large share of the attention from scammers. And it is not just the affluent and older population; it is the relatively poor as well as the rich among those who are of an age. The National Council on Aging warns of some of the more common scams that occur.
1. Medicare/Insurance Fraud: A federal grand jury just this month indicted a Florida physician for up-charging Medicare for over $2.1 million; since Medicare is funded by you and me, all of us pay for that one.
2. Fake Drugs: Even with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, medications can cost a lot. The internet and phone callers have been targeting older adults by selling “cheaper medicine,” but the drugs are counterfeit.
3. Funeral Crashers: A scammer can follow the obit column and show up at the funeral to present the grieving family with a false debt allegedly owed by the deceased.
4. Looking Marvelous: In search of the eternal youth elixir, consumers at any age who want to look younger than their years can find a whole host of scammers with fake goods that make big promises and cost big dollars.
5. Phone Fakes: It is not bad enough that an older person can be duped by a fake telemarketer, but it often happens that an accomplice of the first scammer will call later to secure even more dollars offering to help reclaim the first loss.
6. Going Phishing: Older web surfers may not recognize the difference between a legitimate request for updated personal information and one that is stealing their identity and their dollars.
7. Too Good: Yes, if the investment is too good to be true, please appreciate that it is just that. Does the name Bernie Madoff ring a bell? And he built his pyramid scheme with money from friends.
8. Candy Grams: Beware of any callers who request that the money – ostensibly for a family member in trouble or a worthy charitable cause – be sent via Western Union or MoneyGram. These don’t require ID at the receiving end.
If this does not scare you on behalf of your older loved one, what should scare you is that all these scammers are incredibly creative. Today’s scam always has the potential to transform into a new version that will surprise someone tomorrow. Beware of the Nigerian prince who offers to share his inheritance…
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to


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