The phone rang in David McGuire's home. He was delighted to hear the caller say, "This is your grandson!" What happened next, though, sent David's heart racing.
The young caller said, "I took a trip to Mexico, and I'm in trouble. I'm in a police station. Can you bank wire me $1,500?"
"What kind of trouble are you in?" David asked, deeply concerned.
"It was a misunderstanding. Please, Grandpa. I'm scared."
"Brendan, I love you, but I'm not going to do a thing until I talk to your mother about this."
His "grandson" hung up.
Shaking, David called his daughter. When she heard the details, David's daughter said, "It's a scam! I just talked to Brendan on his break at work. He's fine!"
When we hear of attempted scams on seniors, we are furious. After all, their health is delicate, their minds are not as clear as they used to be, and it is cruel that someone has tried to manipulate them into giving up their hard-earned, often-scarce money.
Many scammers target seniors for just these reasons. In addition to frailties that may affect their decision-making, seniors may be gullible because of the way they were raised. The FBI notes that people born in the first half of the twentieth century were raised to be polite and trusting. They were scolded to be honest and honorable. They assume that others share those social values.
The smart senior, however, must learn how to "smell a rat." One way to do this is to be alert to some of the scams that are still in use, such as the following six.
Although most funeral homes are respectable, seniors are well advised to set emotions aside and comparison shop as much as possible during the final arrangements for a spouse or other loved one. It is important to know such things as the fact that there is no need to pay extra thousands of dollars to preserve the body underground. Nature will take its course regardless of how much is spent on preservation techniques, some of which actually accelerate decay.
It is against the law for a funeral home to sell unnecessary goods or services. The Federal Trade Commission states, for example, that there is no need for a casket or embalming services for cremation. The FTC also requires funeral homes to provide lists of specific goods, services, and their costs. Items such as urns or caskets can vary dramatically in price, so these lists should be used to comparison shop.
Scammers and schemers who target seniors represent unspeakable skulduggery. Yet smart seniors, by being aware of the more common scams, can develop radar for new and lesser known schemes when they come on the scene.
Fraud Target: Senior citizens. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Available online at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.
Funeral Scams. Cemetery Depot. Available online at http://www.cemeterydepot.com/Funeral-Scams-information.php.
Kircheimer, Sid. Beware of Funeral Frauds. July/August 2014. AARP. Available online at http://member.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/beware-of-funeral-fraud.html.
Ribeiro, Ana Gonzalez. 7 Costly Scams that Target Seniors. June 11, 2015. BankRate.com. Available online at http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/fraud-5-scams-aimed-at-the-elderly-1.aspx.