Scam Artists and Seniors: How to Protect Yourself and Those You Love From Investment Fraud

Confessions of a Con Artist

But you can't legally be held liable for fraudulent purchases like that. It's different, however, with medical identity theft. These can include tests, prescription drugs and even operations. Your Plan Never surrender Social Security, Medicare or health insurance numbers to anyone you don't know and trust.

10 scary scams targeting seniors and how to avoid them | Clark Howard

Be particularly wary of free health checks offered at shopping malls, fitness clubs and retirement homes so-called rolling labs. If they ask to photocopy your cards or ask you to sign a blank insurance claim form, don't do it, Nofziger says. After all, it's supposed to be free. It's also vital to review all statements from your insurance provider. If there are any charges you don't understand, call immediately.

And when shopping online for prescription drugs or other health-related items, remember that if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. In September, news broke that Apple's normally secure app store had been compromised. Some developers had evidently used a fake version of Xcode hence dubbed Xcode Ghost to build their apps, not knowing it contained malware designed to steal passwords and do other devious things. Your Plan Apple says it has purged its store of these malicious apps.

Why scam artists love the elderly

But that doesn't mean it couldn't happen again. Geek Squad's Woodworth recommends always reading an app's reviews before downloading and choosing proven, popular ones. Be aware, too, that you can limit an app's access to your location by adjusting your device's privacy settings, thus reducing the chance of being spied on. The key to every scammer's success is being able to put you under "emotional ether. At no time are we more vulnerable than after the loss of a loved one, and con artists know that.

Police say he scanned obituaries for prey, then pretended to be a bank official to trick them out of money. He may have been working the scam across the country for decades. Your Plan Ask a trusted family member to temporarily handle your financial responsibilities while you are grieving. Have that person follow up on any suspicious phone calls or emails. And be aware that while you are grieving, you may be more vulnerable to fraud tactics that play on your emotions.

This rip-off involves getting an unsolicited email from McDonald's, Subway or another popular restaurant or retailer offering a free gift card if you click a link to activate it. The pitch looks legit, but it's a phishing scam, meaning the perpetrator is either trying to install malware on your computer or gather personal info by having you complete an online questionnaire. Your Plan Repeat after us: Never click a link in an unsolicited email or divulge personal info, no matter how enticing the offer.

Do a Google search such as "McDonald's gift card scam" and see if any warnings come up. In most cases, they will. Broadcast journalist Richard Lui's father, Stephen Lui, who suffers from dementia, became a victim of scam artists who bombarded him with hundreds of phone calls from fake charities and lotteries. The year-old former Presbyterian youth pastor and retired social worker for the city of San Francisco has always been outgoing and trusting. Members can print free coupons at the Grocery Coupon Center powered by Coupons. You are leaving AARP. Please return to AARP. Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.

In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free to search for ways to make a difference in your community at www. Whether it was manipulating my three older sisters or convincing the neighbor lady that I needed one more ice-cream bar from the Mister Softee truck, I always knew what to say.

And as I got older, I got better.

In , I got a chance to apply these gifts of persuasion in the workplace. I went to work for a Florida company that sold prepaid-calling-card vending machines. At first I thought it was a real job. But it seemed like a lot of customers were calling back to complain.

Get to Know Your State Securities Regulator

While it seems unconscionable to most, unscrupulous men and women often target senior citizens for devious scams to rob them of their money or identities. Were you thinking clearly? Contact your State Securities Regulator Preventing Elder Investment Fraud Senior citizens have long been the target of unscrupulous investment scam artists. Always check with the BBB before offering up funds. As a result, consumers may find it hard to distinguish scam artists from anybody else they encounter in the legal economy. To find a client's emotional need, I'll ask a bunch of personal questions.

In fact, they all called back to complain. Believe it or not, for a long time I thought every business was like this. Gradually, it dawned on me that this was the dark side of corporate America. I first tried heroin when I was 22, and became instantly addicted. For the next 15 years I would move in and out of rehab centers and in and out of fraud boiler rooms.

Drug addiction gave me the two characteristics all scam operators want in a closer: If you are strung out and in need of a fix, you will do anything to feed your habit. This may explain why the owners of many of these scam operations in South Florida recruited their boiler room staff at local Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Who's a better talker than an addict? Who is more manipulative than an addict? Who is more desperate for money than an addict? Addicts hustle; that's what we do.

So you couple that with my experience selling over the phone in Florida and you have the perfect storm.

I'm a hustler from New York and an addict. These boiler rooms were dying to hire me. This was lesson number one: Assume a false personality or social mask that makes it easier to pull off the deception. Swindling is really acting, and you play a character who will help you appear legitimate, confident and successful … even when you are not. I've trained hundreds of salesmen who worked in scam boiler rooms. And I always told them to picture themselves with the big sprawling office, sitting behind the mahogany desk, with the family portrait on the credenza.

Your autographed football and jerseys are hanging on the wall, along with awards and several pictures of you posing with famous actors. The pool table is across the room on the left-hand side. You are this bigwig whom everybody wants to talk to. The idea is to build up confidence, so that when you ask for the money you won't show one lick of fear or hesitation or doubt that this isn't, hands down, absolutely the greatest decision this client is making for his or her family and future.

The persona explains how a barrel of dented-can drug addicts can persuade successful businesspeople to write big checks without reading the paperwork. On the outside you will see nothing but charm, an engaging personality and swagger. On the inside lies a predator. There is no conscience in this business. It's every man for himself, and the goal is to acquire as much money as possible.

Today's scammers are on the phone, at your door and online. Here's how to fend them off

The business needs to have a persona, too, to look legitimate and trustworthy. So we'd run television commercials and hire famous actors to appear in them. The first day we ran that ad, it generated more than 10, phone calls. I guess people see an Adam West or an Ernest Borgnine we also hired him on TV and assume the product he's selling is the real deal or he wouldn't be selling it. But the celebrity's contract frequently states that he or she cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the claims in the script. The celebrity probably doesn't know that people are getting ripped off; he may know nothing at all about the business.

He just comes in, reads his part and leaves. Think about the first time you fell in love or a time when someone cut you off on the freeway and you were seething for hours. Were you thinking clearly?

Protecting Yourself Against Financial Scams

Those who believe they'd never fall for a scam don't realize it's not about how smart you are; it's about how well you control your emotions. Fraud victims are people with emotional needs, just like the rest of us. But they can't separate out those needs when they make financial decisions. That's what makes them vulnerable. As a master closer, I made it my first objective to get the victim "under the ether. Once I have gotten you into this condition, it doesn't matter how smart or dumb you are. Ether trumps intelligence every time. To find a client's emotional need, I'll ask a bunch of personal questions.

Then I'll throttle up the pressure by focusing on that need.

That's got to be tough. If you apply logic, the answer is: I don't even know who you are. The other pathway to the ether is simple greed: I just promise people they can make a ton of money. I'm often asked how I could have ripped off senior citizens. The answer is that con men target people who have money, and a lot of seniors are sitting on fat nest eggs. It's the Willie Sutton rule: He robbed banks because that is where the money was. But there's more to it than that. I think older people are easier to scam, because their emotional needs are closer to the surface.

7 Scams That Target Elderly Seniors – How to Protect Your Loved Ones

They aren't afraid to tell people how much they care about their kids and grandkids. They aren't afraid to share their fears about the unstable financial markets and how much they worry about being on a fixed income.

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These fears are real. And every one of them is a bullet for my gun. My scam career was focused on investments like phony oil and gas deals , bogus business opportunities and gold-coin scams. Scam artists often tell their victims that this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer and it will be gone tomorrow. But resist the pressure to invest quickly and take the time you need to investigate before sending money. Fraudsters often try to lure investors through free investment seminars, figuring if they do a small favor for you, such as supplying a free lunch, you will do a big favor for them and invest in their product.

There is never a reason to make a quick decision on an investment. If you attend a free lunch, take the material home and research both the investment and the individual selling it before you invest. Always make sure the product is right for you and that you understand what you are buying and all the associated fees. If you have a question or concern about an investment, or you think you have encountered one of these frauds, please contact the SEC, FINRA, or your state securities regulator to report the fraud and to get assistance. Red flags for fraud and common persuasion tactics How do successful, financially intelligent people fall prey to investment fraud?

Here are red flags to look for: Where can I go for help?