Here’s another tale from the retirement belt.
My neighborhood in Florida has an email alert system called “Nextdoor Central Beach.” It was ablaze last week with news about fraudulent telephone calls directed at seniors.
These thieves target zip codes like ours with lots of retired folks.
The fraudulent calls were from someone who identified himself as an IRS agent. He said that if the person did not immediately send him a large amount of money, they would be prosecuted for income tax evasion.
And he added urgency by saying that they had only days to get the money to him and that their home could be auctioned to satisfy the debt.
I’m told that this is not a new scam. It has been around for a while. But some of my neighbors were panicked by the threat of prosecution and the loss of their homes and sent the money.
I received one of these calls, and being the wise guy I am, I asked if I could deliver the money to him personally so I could be certain that he received it. I did the best panicked, anxious routine I could muster.
We had a few laughs about his response. (He had none.)
But the truth is that elder abuse is no joke… and it’s on the rise.
Some of the more disgusting ploys used by the lower-than-dirt scum who prey on seniors are…
- Cemetery plot sales
- Grossly expensive reverse mortgages
- Counterfeit prescriptions by mail
- Health/Medicare insurance offers
- Investment schemes built around retirement
- And a call from someone who informs you that a loved one is in jail and needs bail money.
A friend’s mother lost $5,000 on that last one. The thieves got all the information about where the grandchild was traveling from his grandmother’s Facebook page.
Too much personal information online is an issue for another time.
Seniors are the favorite target of these thieves because, as we age, we become more isolated and have fewer social contacts. This limits communication with others and makes us more vulnerable.
So here are a few “stay out of trouble” tips I used to share with my clients, most of whom were elderly, when I was working as a financial advisor. They won’t stop all the thieves out there, but they are pretty effective at keeping you out of trouble…
- Never do new business of any kind on the phone unless you are certain that you know who is calling—your broker, lawyer, accountant, etc.
- Never give your Social Security number to anyone, and this includes your doctor’s office. Insurance in the past used your Social Security number as your account number, but that has changed. No one has the right to this information.
- If you have to meet with someone you haven’t done business with before about anything related to money (insurance, investments, mortgages of any kind), have your attorney, accountant, or at least a friend or relative who is familiar with the topic at the meeting. And record it!Even better, have the meeting in your lawyer’s or accountant’s office. That will scare away anyone who isn’t acting in your best interest. And if “no” is their answer, it should be yours, too.Yes, it will cost you a few dollars to have a lawyer or accountant attend, but con artists won’t go anywhere near a meeting with an attorney.
We have no way of replacing our nest eggs. Take every precaution, and never do new business of any kind over the phone.
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