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More on Fraud Against Seniors

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As the kids would say, “That’s lower than whale poop, and that’s at the bottom of the ocean!” That’s how I feel about the companies that are raking in billions with the myriad of frauds perpetrated on the public. They seem to fall into several categories:

You won a prize! – Maybe they say the Publisher’s Clearing house or a car or a big cash prize – “Just pay the taxes and fees first to receive your prize.” The mark is told that payment can be made through purchase of Gift Cards, Netspend cards or money sent to them directly from your bank account.

You have a computer virus – security compromised– you are told of a virus in your computer – just log on, put in a code and the scammer has access to your computer and all of your files!

Medicare Fraud – calls from purported healthcare companies or individuals that identify themselves as from Medicare, your doctor or pharmacy. The goal is to get your Medicare Number to either mail boxes of unnecessary medical supplies (DME Durable Medical Equipment), order unnecessary testing or generate fraudulent bills to Medicare. In my last column I shared a troubling story about a local physician’s Mom. It’s a mess.

Federal/Government Agent Scam – a person calls purporting to be with a law enforcement agency indicating your social security number has been used in a crime. They ask you to verify it by providing the number. They are off to the races, stealing your identity.

Your credit card or bank have been compromised: Maybe it an error on an Amazon charge. They get very creative.

Phony Charities: the AARP website shows 2 reports of local scams requesting gift cards to fund grants for Vets in Shasta County.

Sadly, I am pretty sure that there is a black market out there where the contact information of the “easy mark” is sold.

I recently interviewed a client whose dear friend was the victim of several of these scams to the tune of over $100,000. It is heartbreaking to see someone’s life savings stolen. The individual is a lovely person with a generous and trusting heart.

Here’s what you can do if you believe a fraud has been committed. : FBI = https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes.

In the case of cyber crimes including on-line internet fraud, an IC3 report can be filed at https://www.ic3.gov/Home/EF by either the victim or someone on behalf of another person. This website is managed by the FBI.

AARP has one of the best sites to get more information at : https://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/history/aarp-fights-scams-fraud.html. There is information on setting up financial and computer guard rails to protect individuals.

An additional problem with these scammers, is that they jeopardize legitimate programs like the Shasta Community Health Center’s new Chronic Care Management program. It sets up a medical care manager to work with individuals on their health conditions. The difference in this situation is the patient initiates the call and can identify the individual with whom they are working. These are not “out of the blue” calls.

What if there more at play than just the scammer? When is our loved one actually in danger and perhaps cognitively impaired?

In the case of the $100,000 scam my friend’s hindsight clearly showed the signs that something more serious was wrong. The most telling were:

  1. Monthly bills paid in arrears – inability to manage household finances, stacks of mail and paperwork left unattended or unopened.
  2. Series of account closures by various banks and credit cards. Credit card numbers change often.
  3. Lapses in judgment that are contrary to the known personality.
  4. Telephone rings very frequently & callers have a heavy accent, calling from a noisy boiler room center, likely in a foreign country.
  5. Sharing personal identifying information over the telephone or computer.
  6. Repeated stories told over and over, with the subject sometimes changing, but the basic story line intact, confabulation of events.
  7. Difficulty managing daily medications, renewals of prescriptions and appointments.

As the situation deteriorated, my friend contacted trusted family members who notified the family physician that something was wrong. Eventually a full evaluation was completed and a game plan is being developed to protect the individual’s assets and dignity.

Ideally these events are considered in advance planning, preferably with an attorney. Documents can be created to protect one’s goals and objectives for financial and personal care. Medicare now requires that your physician ask if you have an Advanced Directive, instructing what is to be done if you have a serious health issue.

None of us want to believe we will be unable to be independent or could be compromised mentally. Much better to plan in advance than be required to react in a crisis situation. Here’s a good place to start: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-health-care-directives.

Margaret R. Beck

Margaret Beck CLU, ChFC, CEBS started her insurance practice in Redding in 1978. She is the founder of Affiliated Benefit Services where businesses and individuals are assisted in choosing proper products, compliance with complex benefit laws and claims issues once coverage is placed.

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