Scam artists like to prey on senior adults. Unfortunately, this has only increased in recent years, rather than decreased. If ever there is a question about something you have received, or a fee invoice you have been sent by an agency you're not familiar with, we would recommend calling us! We don't mind, and we'd rather help protect our seniors, than see these scams executed successfully and have to clean up the mess afterwards. So please please please, give our office a call should you encounter anything you think is suspicious!
Here at our firm, we also address these issues directly in the drafting of your Trusts and Powers of Attorney. By contacting your elder law attorneys here at Crenshaw Peterson, you can identify and authorize your team of quick responders to step in and protect you from being taken advantage of by outsiders. We can also direct you to any authorities that may assist in helping you recover from the scam should you fall prey.
1. A fee for pulling a copy of your deed from the register of Deeds.
This is becoming a frequent scam sent to almost all of our clients across the state of Michigan. Especially if we filed a deed for recording with the Register of Deeds as part of your estate plan. Our clients get a very official looking letter in the mail that appears to be legitimate and from the State of Michigan asking you to pay a fee of usually around $75 for them to send you a copy of your real estate transactions. DO NOT SEND THEM THE MONEY!!
If you look closely, this form is actually from some other party, not the State of Michigan, and often lists California in the small print. They will in fact send you a copy of your most recently recorded deed BUT, it would only cost you a $1.00, that's right ONE DOLLAR if you went down to the register of deeds yourself. Secondly, you just recorded that deed, so you just recently got the original back from the register of deeds, so why would you need a copy?? And if you do want a copy, call us, and we'll send you our file copy FOR FREE!!
2. IRS scams
Often around tax season, seniors will get a phone call from a supposed IRS agent calling about taxes owed or unpaid taxes. Often if a senior doesn't immediately respond, they even resort to threatening the senior with arrest, suspension of a driver's license, a lawsuit and more. Do not respond to these calls. The IRS is not making them.
3. Health Care scams
A new favorite scam on senior citizens seems to be with health care. With ever changing rules and regulations this is already a fear of a lot of senior citizens and probably why they fall victim to it more easily. A scammer will call a senior pretending to be a medicare representative. The goal by the scammer is to get personal information. The scammer then uses that personal information improperly. We've also seen the scammers pretend to have back due amounts owed back to medicare or the insurance company to get money out of the senior. Or in some instances, we've seen the scammer call back later and tell the senior that they spoke with their children and the child said it was okay to give the scammer their social security number.
DO NOT give out your personal information and especially your social security number over the phone to someone you do not know!
4. Grandchild/great grandchild scams
Less frequently, but still prevalent is the scammer who pretends to be a grandchild or great grandchild. They call up "grandma" or "grandpa" and ask for money for some problem they recently encountered that they need help with. Grandparents LOVE their grandchildren often to the point of being irrational on what the give them. Isn't that what grandparents are for? To spoil grandkids rotten?! Speaking as a grandchild beloved and loving my grandparents this is a relationship unlike any other. And these scammers try to take advantage of knowing what those relationships are like.
Be sure, that if you are asked for money from a loved one, you confirm that is in fact them you are speaking to. Call them back on the phone later and ask, go to their home if you live nearby and speak face to face. Don't give the caller or your grandchild your banking information!
5. Prescription drugs
With the ever increasing costs of prescriptions on seniors, many senior citizens are looking online for cheaper drugs. BE CAREFUL!
Some of the drugs are counterfeit, or the company takes the money and doesn't deliver the drugs. Be sure that it is a reputable company you are transacting with. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Unfortunately, this scam is ever increasing and our seniors and their families need to be more prudent in watching for these scams.
6. The obituary scam
Here, scammers read obituaries in the paper and call the deceased's family and demand money for a supposed outstanding debt that the deceased left behind. Another version of this is the delivery person showing up at the door and demanding onsite payment for a package the deceased ordered right before they died.
First, make sure you are working with a legal team to correctly identify legitimate creditors. Second, very rarely does a company deliver a product today without demanding payment first, so you shouldn't pay anyone coming to your home. And finally, you can reject any orders sent that your deceased spouse or relative ordered right before they died by sending a "return to sender" and not opening the package. Do not fall party to these scams.
7. Funeral and Cemetery plot scam
This is less common. And I want to emphasize that there are some really great local funeral homes that will assist you with all your needs. But unfortunately, there have been known to be a nonreputable funeral home too that will try to be dishonest in doing business. You do not need to buy the most expensive casket, you don't need a casket at all if your loved one is being cremated, and watch for those unnecessary funeral service costs being added to the bill.
One recommendation I often make to my clients is to do this ahead of time. A prepaid funeral is a gift to yourself and your family. The reason that this scam is successful is because losing someone is stressful and emotional and you're not always thinking with your best frame of mind. Doing this in advance not only ensures that your family won't buy the most expensive thing out of grief, but also that you control what happens to you in the aftermath.
Seniors today are unfortunately the targets in a way others are not. But as you've just read, those who are careful, and observant will not be taken advantage of. So call us! Whenever you are concerned that you might be on the receiving end of a scam artist call and get our feedback on it. We may tell you that it's legitimate, but wouldn't you rather have the assurance? And we'd love to give it to you, so call our office should any questions arise.