Our seniors and those with disabilities deserve to live in dignity, but unfortunately a variety of scams exists to harm the most vulnerable among us.
Kenny Higdon, owner of 5 Star Home Care, said his company tries to educate clients about these scams, cited by the National Council on Aging, and how to avoid becoming victims.
"They're unlikely to fall for a scam they've been warned about," Higdon said. "Impaired memory and decision making skills can make seniors attractive targets for bad people. Stay vigilant and warn your older loved ones about these cons."
Ten common tactics fraudsters use to separate seniors from their money:
1. The grandparent scam: An imposter poses as a loved one claiming to be in trouble and needing emergency money quickly sent for some bogus reason via Western Union.
2. Investment schemes: Like Bernie Madoff 's scam that left many seniors destitute.
3. Email scams: Promising a big payout if the senior sends payments to get a share of some rich or well-connected person's fortune, or "phishing" emails that look legit but are actually imitations of emails from trusted brands.
4. Sweepstakes and lottery scams: Promising large sums of money if the senior sends a payment to unlock or prepay the taxes on their nonexistent "winnings."
5. Medicare card and Medicaid card ID theft scam: Impersonating a government worker and saying the senior's cards must be replaced, then extracting their personal information for the purpose of identity theft.
6. Charity scams: Calling after a major disaster and claiming to solicit money for recovery/aid for the victims, when the money actually goes into the criminal's bank account.
7. Repair fraud: Someone charges exorbitant amounts of money for yard work or unnecessary car repairs are ordered to dupe someone with dementia.
8. Fraudulent anti-aging products: There is no magical substance to reverse aging, yet companies peddle homeopathic remedies that do absolutely nothing - except take money from those who want to appear younger.
9. Cemetery, funeral and cremation scams: Taking advantage of families during their time of grief by adding unnecessary products to the bill.
10. Counterfeit prescription medicines: A large portion of medications coming from outside the USA are counterfeit, some could possibly even be poisonous).
HOW DOES SOMEONE AVOID THESE SCAMS?
• Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This includes "surefire" investment opportunities pushed by persuasive types that are really just pyramid schemes or dishonest ploys to get retirement savings.
• Only deal with reputable and credible institutions. Call a trusted organization directly (after looking up their number in the phone book or from a trusted website) if you don't feel safe disclosing your private information online. If you order something from dubious online sources, you are playing with fire.
• Be distrustful of unsolicited emails and do not make donations or payments to organizations that cold-call you. This includes calls from people who claim to represent official agencies. If you wish to donate to disaster relief, seek out the charity yourself.
• Never give personal information like your Social Security number or banking information over the phone.
• If you find yourself making poor purchasing decisions, talk to a younger family member about getting help,and possibly a financial power of attorney.
• Practice a healthy dose of skepticism as a consumer.
• Rely on a calmer, more stoic family member who has good business sense to help make funeral arrangements, because it's hard to make rational business decisions in moments of grief.
"Scammers are evil, but they are not stupid," said Higdon. "They prey on targets of opportunity such as seniors who are confused by techno-babble or financial jargon. Isolation and sometimes loneliness can also make seniors dangerously trusting."
ABOUT 5 STAR HOME CARE
Higdon started 5 Star Home Care after witnessing the sacrifices his own mother had to make to become a caregiver after she simply couldn't find anyone she trusted to watch after his grandmother.
Realizing how precious our seniors are, 5 Star employs the most qualified caregivers who are hired only after undergoing careful background checks and drug screens. Higdon said he won't put anyone in a client's home that he would not trust to care for his own family. The company's procedures are tailored to work toward constant monitoring, care management and never placing the senior at risk of being left without care, he added.
5 Star Home Care serves the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Johnson City, Nashville, Cookville and Memphis communities.
Home care services exist to provide the basic services that facilities do - light housekeeping, meal preparation and social activities - without removing the senior from the familiarity of home. It is a cost-efficient alternative to an assisted living facility that preserves the aging loved one's sense of freedom and comfort.
If you are struggling with how to best care for an aging or disabled relative, visit StarHomeCare.com to download a free guide that explores the alternatives and offers a checklist of signs that can help you determine whether a loved one may need additional care.
5 Star Home Care is located at 1618 Gunbarrel Road and can be reached at 423-893-8181 for more information.