The Six Common Cons You Should Avoid
Romance
Charity
Grandparents
Home Repair
Health Care
Investment
Romance scammers
cruise online dating
websites, posting
hundreds of
messages a day.

After weeks of cyber
sweet talk tailored to
potential victims'
responses, schemers
inevitably request
money — typically via
wire transfer —
saying they need it
for a plane ticket to
come visit or to deal
with some personal
emergency.

See also:
Proceed
with caution — online
dating tips
The come-on may be
an offer of free
medical supplies, a
threat of losing
Medicare coverage
or a promise of
better sex with
low-cost Viagra.

See also:
Help fight
health care fraud

The result can be
old-fashioned
financial fraud or a
specialized variant,
medical identity theft,
in which impostors
get health care
services under your
name, leaving you
with the tab.

People 65 and older
are prized targets
because of Medicare
benefits.

In view of continuing
public
misconceptions
about how the
Affordable Care Act
works, experts
predict health care
scams will become
an epidemic in 2014.
Unscrupulous
contractors arrive
unexpected at your
front door, claiming to
have noticed necessary
repairs while driving by.

See also:
Avoiding
door-to-door sales
scams

Some demand
upfront payment for
materials and then
run off with the
money. Others do
shoddy work like
applying used motor
oil to recoat
driveways.

Some make
legitimate repairs for
outrageous prices.

Perhaps the worst are
"woodchucks." They
might initially trim
trees or clean gutters,
but they continue to
recommend more
repairs until you're
bled dry by them or
their "specialist"
buddies.
These come in many
forms: Some are
free-lunch seminars
hawking
questionable
financial products or
legitimate ones with
long "hold" periods
that are unsuitable
for older investors.

Others are pitches from
cold-calling
telemarketers for "no
risk" investments in
precious metals or
penny stocks.

See also:
Can you
spot investment
fraud?

Losses can be
particularly high:
Older investors who
fell for the bait were
out an average of
$140,500 each, a
study found.
When help is
needed, older
people are often
among the first to
open their hearts
and wallets. This
helps make them the
group most
vulnerable to scams
feigning aid for
veterans, needy or
sick children, or
victims of a recent
disaster, says
Bennett Weiner of
the BBB Wise Giving
Alliance.

See also:
7 ways to
spot fake charities
after a disaster

Most over-the-
transom email
solicitations for
donations are
fraudulent. Never
give credit card
information to
telephone or
front-door solicitors.
Stick with reputable
charities whose
names you've known
for years.
After gathering
names and other
details about family
members from
obituaries, social
media and ancestry
websites, scammers
call, often in the wee
hours.

See also:
Swear off
scammers

They claim to be
beloved
grandchildren who've
been arrested or
hospitalized — often
while traveling — and
need immediate
money.

Don't believe it.

Or, at least call the
grandchild or parents
before heading to
Western Union.

Grandparents of
college-aged young
people are the most
frequent targets,
reporting losses
exceeding $110
million a year.
The Psychology of a Con Job
Scammers know what we want: to feel secure, loved and valued. And they know that the older we get, the more we need peace of mind.

To provide it, some use sweet talk, promising a solution to a problem: money for our shrinking nest eggs, companionship for our lonely hearts, a
chance to show we matter. Others feign a problem that needs quick solving, perhaps with some warning about a potential danger.

"The scammer's goal is to get you to not think rationally, to operate on an emotional level," says Jean Mathisen, director of AARP's Fraud Fighter
hotline (800-646-2283), which provides counseling, education and victim advocacy. "To put you 'under the ether,' as it's called." Some of the
come-ons:

Congratulations, sir. We're sending you a free medical alert device. Now you can relax about your safety.

I know you love me, Grandma. Please send the money so I can get out of jail. I want to come home.

Maybe others don't care about you, but I do. I'll listen.

The natural aging process can cause changes in brain function that benefit scammers. Often subtle, even unnoticeable, these shifts often occur
around the mid-60s.

At this age, the processing of information slows. This can make you more likely to fall for scams urging you to act immediately.

Age-related brain changes can hamper the ability to recognize facial expressions that signal deceit.

Lies repeated again and again are more likely to be perceived as true as you age, experts say. Con artists use tactics that rely on an erosion of
memory or the ability to focus attention. "You forgot to pay me!" or "We agreed on this price" are phrases that are often used.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
Why People Might Fall for It

Studies show that people are most susceptible to fraud within three years of some traumatic event such as loss of a loved one, illness or a move to
a new living place, worrisome challenges that older people frequently face.

"Negative events occupy your attention and chew up your mental capacity," explains Anthony Pratkanis, coauthor (with AARP Washington state
director Doug Shadel) of Weapons of Fraud. "Maybe your nest egg is shrinking, maybe you're facing a change of housing. The scammer learns
this, and offers that last chance to grasp at the golden ring."

Jerry and Deanna Falls endured a perfect storm of negative events. In the space of eight months, a son, a granddaughter and Deanna's mother
died. Another son was left unable to work by an accident.

After falling behind on their mortgage, the Fallses sought a loan modification with mortgage-holder Chase, but were denied. Scammers stepped in.
"We were in a terrible state, and they knew it," recalls Deanna, 74, a former real estate agent. They sent the Fallses a loan modification "approval"
letter — a bogus replica purportedly from HUD that detailed their Chase loan number, rate and balance. That information was probably obtained
from public records, the Fallses were later told. They sent a $3,500 cashier's check for supposed processing fees. That money was lost forever. But
luckily, the couple held on to their home. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) heard about the case and interceded. Chase modified their mortgage.
Adapted from the January/February 2014 AARP Bulletin:
Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult Abuse
Report Adult Abuse: 1-888-83-ADULT