Three Scams Seniors Should Watch Out For

Megan Ray  |  November 9, 2012

"You've won a prize!" This may come as exciting news to many people, but if a senior hears it from a caller on the phone, it most often means they are getting scammed. This fake lottery or sweepstakes scam is one of many common traps that unscrupulous individuals use to steal money from unknowing seniors.

According to the FBI, senior citizens are the age group most likely to have a nest egg, own a home and have excellent credit. Also, it may be more difficult for seniors to say "no" or hang up. Here are four common scams that can be hard to distinguish from real offers.

"You've won!"
The fake lottery or sweepstakes scam that commonly comes in the mail works in one of two ways. Sometimes, a mailing will come asking seniors to buy cheap trinkets or magazine subscriptions in order to have their name entered into a contest. After providing their credit card information to the scammer, they will then receive an authentic-looking check in the mail, stating that they have won a major prize.

Fox News reports it is illegal for a company to require an individual to buy something to enter any type of sweepstakes, so when seniors get these types of mailings, they should shred them immediately.

"There has been a fraudulent charge on your account."
In this scheme, the scammers will ID the last four digits of a senior's card and ask about a fraudulent charge. When the senior denies making the purchase, the scammer will offer to reverse it immediately - once they get the verification code on the back of the card.

The scammer has most likely copied the front of the card somehow, but needs the verification code in order to use it. Seniors who receive these calls should always err on the side of caution and hang up immediately, the news outlet reports. If they think it may be real, they can call the credit card company themselves and inquire.

"50 percent off prescriptions!" 
Many seniors take prescription medications, and wouldn't mind a discount on these often-costly items, which is why scammers call them and offer prescription drugs at 50 percent off. The red flag is that they will usually require a "membership fee" to join the discount club, asking for the senior's credit card numbers in order to enroll them in the program, according to the news source.

Of course, these are only three of the many scams that anyone can fall victim to, though seniors may be particularly targeted. To play it safe, seniors should avoid giving out any personal information over the phone until they have verified the company and caller.