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Health scams targeting seniors: what to look for and how to protect yourself

All Security Reviews Staff · January 6, 2015

Health scams targeting seniors: what to look for and how to protect yourself

Senior citizens lose billions of dollars each year to schemes designed to prey on their weak points. Arm yourself and your loved ones with the knowledge to stop would-be thieves in their tracks.

Why seniors?

Older Americans are an easy mark for scammers: they’re likely to own a home and often have long lines of credit and substantial savings. Lower-income seniors aren’t exempt: U.S. citizens and permanent residents 65 and older qualify for Medicare, so schemers don’t need to know much other than a date of birth to scam them out of money. A 2011 study by the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse estimated the annual financial loss of victims of elder financial abuse to be at least $2.9 billion. The highest average loss to victims, $38,263,136, came from Medicare and Medicaid fraud. An AARP study showed almost two-thirds of fraud victims 50 and older reported exposing themselves to perilous situations, compared to 52 percent of the general population. Victims were more likely to attend presentations that offered a free meal or hotel room, to enter prize drawings and to allow sales people in their homes, the study reported. A UCLA psychologist found seniors were less likely than younger adults to pick up on cues of untrustworthiness. Once a crime occurs, older Americans are less likely to report it, according to the FBI. They may not know whom to report an instance of fraud, they may be embarrassed to admit they have been scammed or they don’t know a crime has taken place. When seniors do report crimes, they can make poor witnesses. It may take weeks or months for the victim to know he or she has been swindled, according to the FBI, and the details can become hazy enough that investigator won’t get the information needed to find the perpetrator. In our first look at senior-focused crime, we’re looking at health-related schemes. Read on for information on common crimes targeting elderly citizens.

Health care and health insurance fraud

Health care and insurance fraud can take many forms. Manufacturers offer consumers “free” products, often after getting sensitive personal information, then charge insurance companies for equipment not needed or not delivered. In lab fraud, unnecessary or fake tests are given at gyms, health clubs, malls or retirement homes and billed to insurers or Medicare. In other cases, providers submit bills for services never performed. How to avoid it:

Prescription medication schemes

These crimes most often occur online, where consumers hope to find a break on expensive medications. The FDA has investigated hundreds of such cases over the last decade. Monetary loss aside, counterfeit medications can worsen the victim’s medical condition, potentially endangering his or her life. How to avoid it:

Anti-Aging Products

Such schemes can range from “miracle” creams that do nothing to a fake Botox scam that made four people ill and earned distributors in Arizona $1.5 million in a year (along with up to 9 years in jail). How to avoid it:

What to do

Are you or a loved one the victim of one of these or another scam? Submit it to tips.fbi.gov or to your local FBI office. Call the Better Business Bureau to report any business you suspect has taken advantage of you, and contact Medicare or your health insurance provider if you receive a suspicious bill.

All Security Reviews Staff avatar

All Security Reviews Staff

Our team at All Security Reviews (ASR) has extensive experience in the personal security industry. At ASR we bring this experience and expertise to you by reviewing security providers and grading each company through our proprietary Identity Protection Rating System.