Senior Safety Tips
Download the full Senior Safety Tips brochure (PDF).
The problem: Most seniors have worked hard to save for retirement. They own their home and have excellent credit. Crooks and miscreants learned quickly that seniors also make good targets. Some victims are embarrassed to report that they’ve been swindled. Other seniors simply don’t know who to call when they’ve been victimized.
Phone Calls Crime Prevention Tips
Any phone call you receive with an offer that's too good to be true is too good to be true! "Unbelievable deals," "amazing prize offers" and other hyped pitches that require you to act now are very likely to be a sham.
- Consider hanging up the phone immediately.
- Make sure your phone has caller ID, and don't take any calls from numbers you do not recognize or unidentified callers.
- Always ask for written materials about any prize or vacation you've won.
Many people support charities. However, be very wary when you receive a call from a “charity” you’re unfamiliar with.
- Always ask for written information about the charitable organization before agreeing to give money.
- Check out the organization before agreeing to purchase products over the phone.
- You can learn more about these charities by contacting the Minnesota Attorney General’s Charities division, which tracks legitimate and dubious charities, call 651-296-3353 or visit the website www.ag.state.mn.us.
The Grandma and Grandpa Scam
This scam is phone call, and the caller is always telling you that your grandchild is far away and in jail. The caller says it is urgent that you bail out your grandchild. Another variation involves a call from the scammer claiming that your grandchild is injured and needs immediate, expensive treatment. Often, the scammer asks you not to contact your grandchild’s parents. When you get one of these calls:
- Be calm.
- Do not give your credit card information to anyone.
- Ask for a phone number so you can call them back.
- Immediately verify the emergency by calling your grandchild’s parents.
Advance Fee Scams
These calls will ask you to send money in anticipation of receiving something of greater value, such as a loan, an investment, or to get in on some trust fund or treasure. All that’s needed is a cash deposit to secure your share.
- Never give out your credit card number.
- Never agree to wire money without discussing this opportunity with someone whom you trust such as your adult children, business advisor or police officer.
Another popular way for crooks to steal your money is when someone calls you to say that your Medicare (or Social Security) number has expired, and they will assist you in opening a new account. For a “small fee” the caller will re-open your account and send your new Medicare card.
- Never give your Medicare number to a caller.
- If the caller claims to be a hospital or clinic, call the hospital or clinic back at the phone number you look up.
- If you are in doubt about the call, you may call the Center for Medicare Services at 1-800-633-4227 or the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
Beware of callers telling you about “living trusts” or reverse mortgages. There is no such thing as a legal “living trust.” A reverse mortgage may be right for you, but be very careful of entering into any arrangement when you are solicited over the phone. Legitimate reverse mortgages are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, risky mortgages aren’t. You may lose your home if you are not extremely careful.
Email Crime Prevention Tips
The same caution about unsolicited telephone calls applies to unsolicited emails.
Email scams often involve a phony but legitimate-looking email from your bank, Amazon, eBay or other online business. The email typically tells you that your account has been hacked or you’ve been the victim of fraud. They ask you to verify your account number, password or Social Security number to “help” the company straighten out your account.
- Be extremely cautious with emails.
- Check the email address from the sender to verify its credibility.
- Do not click on the links in the email.
- Contact the company directly to verify the claim.
Do Not Call List
One way to avoid some, but not all, sales calls is to have your phone number placed on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Do Not Call registry. To add your number to the registry, call 1-888-382-1222. If someone calls and asks for money to keep your phone number on the Do Not Call List, then it’s a scam. The listing is free of charge.