Combatting Senior Scams

The elderly are a popular target for financial scammers...but there are ways to protect them. NBC's Chris Pollone reports.

(NBC News) — A lifetime of savings can be wiped out in an instant by scammers who call you on the phone or send you an Email.

Those crooks often target the elderly, who tend to be more trusting and less savvy about how to detect a scam.

Theresa Ockaskis Allen says she was reviewing bills with her 78-year-old mother, Jan, one day when she started to sense that something wasn’t right.

“We noticed that she was getting she was paying a bill every month for life insurance, but yet she didn’t have life insurance,” she says.

Theresa discovered someone had talked her mom into buying a pre-paid funeral.

When she started digging into the details, she learned her mother was paying 22 percent interest on something she could have paid in full all at once.

“Over the course of 10 years the value of $6400 she would have actually paid out $16,000 out of her pocket,” she notes.

That wasn’t all. It turns out Jan also fell victim to a very common tax collection scam that threatened her with jail time if she didn’t make immediate payments.

Amy Nofziger with the AARP says as we age, we become bigger targets for scammers.

“They hold the majority of wealth in the United States and scammers go where the money is,” she explains.

She suggests people teach their elderly loved ones not to answer the phone if they don’t know who’s calling, and warn them never to give out any account numbers to strangers.

Theresa says her mother now has her mail and bills sent directly to her children and is relieved she doesn’t have to deal with it anymore. She’s more savvy about scams, but there are always new ones out there.

“She’s still getting those phone calls and she’s still having people that are trying to reach out to her to take advantage of of her age,” she says.

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