Phone Scams against the Elderly

  • 'So-called' discount health plans

    Another scheme with a news hook: unsolicited phone calls or visits from hucksters selling fake discount health plans.

    The caller claims to be with the government or a government-sponsored company and tries to sell you a "health plan" that will provide discounts on various medical services, says Breyault.

    These plans rarely offer any worthwhile coverage, he says.

    Signs that it's a scam:

    • The caller won't give you details in writing. (And don't even ask unless you have access to a fax machine or a P.O. box. You don't want to give these people your home address.)
    • The caller asserts he or she is with the government or a government-sponsored company.
    • You're told you must have insurance now. But mandatory health coverage requirements don't go into effect until 2014.

    Best move: hang up.

    If you want different coverage, offers insurance quotes. You can also search Medicare by ZIP code and see which plans are available in your area. Or you can find an agent for supplemental and drug plans through the National Association of Health Underwriters.

  • Hello, Grandma!

    You get a phone call from a "friend" of your grandson. Bad news. Your grandson is in jail. He's too embarrassed to call his parents. Could you wire the bail-lawyer money? And please don't tell anyone.

    One big tip-off: the request to wire money. "Scammers are very frequently users of money services," says Breyault.

    Any time a stranger on the phone asks you to wire money, it's a con. And sometimes, even when someone claims to be family, that can also be a scam.

    Still worried? Hang up and dial your grandson, says Breyault. Chances are his cell is glued to his hip, and you'll discover he's not in jail.

    Or ask the caller the name of the location and the jail. Then hang up, and look up the number to that jail yourself. If you find out it's a real place, call to see if your little darling is there. Most likely, he won't be.

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