Why Seniors Need to Beware of Financial Fraud

Sometimes our advantages can become our weaknesses. If you’re retired or getting close to retirement, you may have some great things going for you, such as an excellent credit rating, your own your home, without any mortgage, and a substantial retirement nest egg.

However, these great things, along with your age, can also put you at greater risk for a range of frauds targeting older people, who usually have more savings but are looking to earn more. We are going to look at a few of the most common frauds perpetrated on seniors, and what you can do to avoid being taken advantage of.

Job Contractor Fraud

If you own your own home, sooner or later it is going to need repair, especially if you have been living in it for some time and your health prevents you from making the repairs yourself.  Contractor scams happen when the contractor asks for the money up front and does not do it, does work that was not agreed upon, and then demands to be paid, or worst of all, does repairs that are bot necessary and then often overcharges for the work, too.

Other common variants include:

* Using admittance into your residence as a means to burglarize it

* Convincing owners to be part of fraudulent insurance claims

Reputable contractors don’t generally go knocking on doors to drum up business. If your house needs some work done, it is usually better to ask around for referrals, or investigate contractors listed by your local Better Business Bureau. See what reviews are posted about them, and look to see if there are any complaints against them before you ever agree to any work being done. Do not pay them until the work is completed to your satisfaction and as agreed upon.

Reverse Mortgage Fraud

Reverse mortgages can be a legitimate technique used in order to gain access to the equity, the money invested, in your home. These are most commonly referred to as home equity conversion mortgages (HECM). HECMs are insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). They were created so that people 62 years and older could easily get hold of some of the equity from their principal residence and make life easier for themselves financially once they retired.  The mortgage would be paid off, and a reverse mortgage would value the house and then give you either a lump sum, annual payout, or monthly pay out for you to live on, but still let you and your partner stay in the house until both of you passed away.

A problem can occur with non-HECM reverse mortgages, however, especially ones that sound to good to be true. Some seniors have ended up as an unsuspecting pawn in a property-flipping scheme, or billed huge fees by an unscrupulous “advisor” that simply handles the standard paperwork involved with a normal HECM loan. If you’re interested in a reverse mortgage, your bank or a reputable mortgage broker is a good place to start. Again, no one reputable will never need to go door to door to drum up business.

Investment Fraud

While people of all ages are taken in by various investment frauds, seniors seem to be targeted the most often, most likely because they have substantial savings that can usually be accessed quickly.

Always be skeptical and double check with a trusted professional when it comes to your life savings. Don’t succumb to any time pressure tactics; if it’s something that you have to decide right now, your answer right now should be “NO.” False time limits are a common technique to get people to commit their hard-earned money to a fraud. They are not giving you enough time to think and make any sort of sensible decision or be able to dig deeper, such as on the Internet, to find out if the offer is a scam or not.

It probably doesn’t seem fair that you as a senior have to constantly be on the look out for fraud in your golden years, but you have worked too hard for your money and house to lose it to scammers. Always ask the right questions, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or a scammer has come to your door and is pressuring you, report it to the police. Hopefully the scammer will be stopped before he can harm anyone else. Don’t be an easy victim. Remain alert, and fight fraud.


For more great tips on how to make the most of your money, visit the Eternal Spiral Books Money Matters section.