Older Americans have a bullseye on their wallets and bank accounts. Scam artists are targeting them more than ever.
According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, people over 65 are 34 percent more likely to have lost money from a financial scam than people in their 40s.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found almost 1 in 20 older respondents admitting they had been scammed later in life.
Marjorie DeGrace became a target last June. While weeding her yard, a man drove up and offered to pave her driveway for a third of what he said he normally charges.
Marjorie's bill? Nine thousand dollars.
"I was shocked, completely shocked," said DeGrace. "And he said they needed the money right then and there."
The paving scam is a common one. Usually the worker says they just finished paving another driveway in the neighborhood and will offer you a "reduced" price so the asphalt does not go to waste.
Marjorie felt intimidate and paid up. A licensed contractor later told she should have paid no more than $2,400 for the paving job she received.
Consumer Reports continues to investigate fraud against seniors. They found victim after victim. Some said they fell for IRS imposters claiming they owe money. Others are fooled by bogus promises of big prizes or a letter saying they won a huge sweepstakes they do not remember entering.
Sadly, unscrupulous financial advisers are also taking advantage or older Americans.
"The elderly are vulnerable to financial abuse for several reasons," warns Tobie Stanger, Personal Finance Writer for Consumer Reports. "One, they have the money in retirement savings. Two, they may be lonely or isolated. And in some cases, there's cognitive decline."
Consumer Reports is recommending a number of steps to protect yourself or your older parents from becoming a fraud victim.
- Use caller ID and do not answer calls with numbers you do not recognize. That will stop many robocallers offering fake deals.
- Opt out of commercial mail solicitations for five years at dmachoice.org.
- Investigate all contractors before through local or state licensing agencies and the Better Business Bureau before handling over money or signing a contract.
Consumer Reports says it is important you look out for your older relatives and neighbors.
"One of the main things that families can do is to make sure the senior is out there in the community and isn't isolated," notes Stanger. "Isolation is a major reason that people get victimized."
And if your older parent becomes a scam victim make sure they fight back. Marjorie is. With help from government prosecutors she is still working to get her money back.
If you or someone you know has been defrauded, contact the government's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. You can report the scam and find anti-fraud resources at www.stopfraud.gov/report.html.
You can also contact the Senate Special Committee on Aging's special toll-free fraud hotline at (855) 303-9470 or online at www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline.
Consumer Reports offers more tips for protecting senior Americans during their retirement years at www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/retirement-guide/index.htm.