New healthcare law, new scams targeting seniors
Uncertainties about the long term effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act have many doctors and healthcare administrators in limbo, but there is one group who swiftly jumped into action after the July decision – scam artists.
Scams targeting seniors are nothing new – a 2011 MetLife study on elder financial abuse estimated an annual financial loss by senior victims at more than $2.9 billion – but the flurry of attention and confusion surrounding the AHA has led to particularly pernicious ones in recent months.
Scams targeting seniors tend to fall into one of three major areas: identity theft, Medicaid/Medicare and medication fraud, and financial exploitation. According to Sid Kirchheimer, who writes a regular Scam Alert column for the AARP, the current healthcare climate is allowing scammers a chance to do all three.
“Whenever a federal program is in the news — and sometimes when it’s not — scammers surface with another government impostor ruse, trying to get your money and personal information for identity theft,” Kirchheimer wrote in a July 20 piece for AARP.
To do so, Kirchheimer continued, thieves “masquerade as Medicare or Social Security employees who need to update or verify” your data. Scammers have also been known to pretend to be FDA, DEA and IRS agents.
Seniors also make great targets for scams because they are unlikely to report the crime, according to Ed Hutchinson, director of the National Association of Triads, part of the National Sheriffs’ Association. Hutchinson notes an AARP study which reported that only 25 percent of scam victims over the age of 55 have ever reported the crime to police.
“These seniors may be afraid to be seen as vulnerable by the law and those in a position to tell them that, perhaps, they are not fit to continue living by themselves. It’s a perceived threat of a loss of independence that drives many to keep quiet,” said Hutchison.
While scams targeting seniors can take many forms, the AARP has devised a list of 10 warning signs to look for to help aging adults protect themselves from would-be crooks:
- Hyping the offer
- Asking lots of personal questions
- Telling you that you’ve won a prize – but must pay to receive it
- Warning you that if you don’t pay right away, you’ll lose the deal
- Failing to tell you where your donations will go
- Telling you the offer is secret
- Providing no written information
- Using fear
- Getting a foot in the door
- Using bait and switch
(Source: Doug Shadel via AARP.com)
Hutchinson acted as an expert source in the development of a “Senior Fraud Protection Kit,” alongside Home Instead Senior Care, which has offices serving the North Indianapolis area. The kit includes advice and assessment tools for determining how at-risk your senior loved ones might be for scams.
“More local seniors than ever (are) at risk of losing their life savings, their homes and their trust in others,” said Jeff Sewell, owner of the North Indianapolis Home Instead office. “We’re pleased to provide the tools to help family caregivers as well as seniors ward off increasingly cunning con artists and their elaborate schemes to defraud local adults.”
To obtain a free Senior Fraud Protection Kit, contact the Home Instead Senior Care office serving North Indianapolis, Fishers and Carmel at 317-252-4472.