Active Seniors Special Section: 9 ways for seniors to avoid scams

Published on Wed, May 16, 2012
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Identity theft among Americans 50 and older is rising, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2010, more than 3.5 million households headed by people 50 and older experienced identity theft, according to bureau figures.

Identity thieves find seniors attractive targets for a number of reasons, according to the FBI, including for their financial stability. Seniors are more likely to have savings, own a home and have good credit.

The Blaine Police Department has had three reports of identity theft with victims older than 60 over the past five years, said department administrative manager Lisa Moeller. Police had 13 reports of fraud from residents older than 60 in that same time period.

Moeller said the police cannot take any action unless someone has lost money as the result of fraud, but she did caution against giving any financial information to strangers over the phone or through any other medium.

The FBI recommends taking precautions when doing business over the phone, including:

•    Ask for written material before committing to any charitable request or special offer. If you receive written material, review it with someone you trust.

•    Avoid dealing with companies you don’t know, and research unfamiliar companies through consumer agencies like the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general or National Fraud Information Center.

•    Know who you’re talking to. Ask for the person’s full name, business title, phone number, physical address, mailing address and business license number. Verify the information before any transactions take place.

•    Don’t pay in advance for services, and be wary of high-pressure tactics that require you to act immediately in order to receive a special price or offer.

•    Never sign blank claim forms or give a medical provider blanket authorization to bill for services.

•    Don’t do business with anyone selling medical equipment door-to-door or over the phone, or who tells you that you can get services or equipment for free.

•    Make sure you understand what your medical providers will charge and how much of it you will be expected to pay out of pocket. Review your coverage with your health insurance company so you understand what your financial responsibilities are.

•    Provide your insurance or Medicare information only to those who have given you a medical service.

•    Keep accurate records of all your medical appointments and prescriptions.