By Maria Burke, RN, Owner, Celtic Angels Home Health Care
Contributing Editor: Kevin W. Kirby, Attorney at Law

I have worked with people over the age of 55 for a large part of my nursing and home care career and I have seen and heard of so many different fraudulent acts and scams that I thought it warranted an article about how to avoid falling prey to them.

Most Common Scams

Be very cautious of anyone who comes to your door selling a product or service. Never allow them entrance to your home or apartment. If you are actually interested in what they are selling, as them to leave the information at your door step with their business card and you will contact them by phone or mail. Most common scams seem to come from people claiming to resurface your asphalt driveway, exterminator, or chimney sweep. Again, never permit a stranger to enter your home without having a proper introduction by phone with a prior arranged appointment. If possible, have someone with you when you have a service person or salesperson come to your home or apartment.

Phone Scams

Some of the most recent reported scams involve people calling claiming they are from the IRS, people requesting bail money for one of your family members or robotic calls selling a product or service. Do not ever provide sensitive banking information, personal information such as social security number, street address or family names to these callers. It’s important to know that the IRS would never contact someone by phone and would use the United States Postal Service for any inquiries from you.

Magazine or Other Subscriptions

It is common for some publishing companies to have you sign up for a magazine or product subscription and then automatically bill your credit card every month thereafter. Remember, you have the right to cancel these subscriptions at any time. Also, if they send you threatening letters or invoices, you have every right to write the company and request they remove you entirely from their subscription and all other mailing lists.
Who Commits These Crimes
The types of people who commonly commit these crimes are very good at it. The have mastered sales techniques and they don’t take no for an answer. The use social media like Face Book and Google for their victims. The also scan obituaries and they sometimes involve trusted people in your inner circle like caretakers, family members, neighbors, attorneys, pastors, doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, according to the National Council on Aging, 90% of all elder abuse is by a family member and those listed on joint accounts, powers of attorney who promise care in return for money or other possessions of yours.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not pay up front for anything that is “promised” to you such as ‘you’ll win a prize’ or “receive a financial benefit of some kind.” Have a script ready when someone calls or comes to your door so you are prepared and aren’t thrown off by their slick abilities. Talk to your friends if someone is questionable. Do an online search. Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers have found a way to appear as though they are calling from a local or state police barracks. Remember, your welfare comes first. You can always say “send me some information in the mail and I will look at it at my convenience”.