Fraud: 6 scams aimed at the elderly

The discount prescription scam

Callers offer seniors prescription drugs at 50 percent off. The catch: Hucksters require a $200 "membership fee" to join a discount club, along with seniors' credit card numbers. Or the drugs never arrive as promised, or the "medicine" is actually a generic herbal replacement.

What the senior should do: Be dubious. Encourage the elderly person to check with their state's program for low-income health insurance (often called a state health insurance program, or SHIP). These agencies maintain a list of reputable discount programs.

The credit card company fraud call

This caller often hits later at night and says he's from the senior's credit card company. He even IDs the last four digits of your parents' charge card as proof. He's checking on a possible fraudulent purchase. When the senior denies making the purchase, the caller offers to reverse it immediately. He just needs the three- or four-digit verification code on the back of his or her credit card.

What the seniors should do: Suspect foul play. "Thieves have probably copied the front of your parents' card, but still need the verification code," says Mathisen. The seniors should hang up and call their credit card issuers immediately, using the number on the back of the card. They'll likely learn that the original call was a scam. It's a good idea to cancel and replace the card, just in case.

The 'Help for Haiti' hustle

Polite door-to-door solicitors ask for donations on behalf of any number of charitable organizations. They may also call and purport to be soliciting funds for the Red Cross.

What the senior should do: Say "No, thanks." Instead, they should mail charitable contributions directly to their local Red Cross or established church/charity. If seniors continue to get phone calls, help them put their phone number on the "Do Not Call" registry, toll free (888) 382-1222.


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