Medicare scams that hit close to home – Hamilton County Reporter | #socialmedia


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The FBI estimates that scams on the elderly account for over $3 billion a year. Here is what happened to my loved one. (No, it wasn’t my mom. She wants you to know it wasn’t her.)

A common scam is to find college kids from their social media posts and see if they are connected to a grandparent. It’s easy to track down the grandparent’s phone number and try to rip them off. She got a call from someone at Indiana University who had my son, her grandson. “If you don’t pay off his drug debt of four grand within the hour, we will kill him.” She wasn’t aware that my son had a drug problem (he didn’t) but thought it sounded plausible. Sometimes they even “put the kid on the phone” saying, “Grandma, please help me.” While the voice isn’t their relative, many seniors have trouble hearing on the phone and the stressed-out wail sounded like it could be their loved one.

My mother-in-law (okay, now you know) was recently widowed. She didn’t have a spouse to bounce this off of, and even if she had, this scam often succeeds. The scammers give a very firm deadline so there isn’t much time to check sources. Most people don’t even try because they are terrified their loved one is in danger. They’ve watched countless hours of true crime TV and this feels very real.

Luckily, Noblesville had a lot of people who tried to help thwart this scam. My mother-in-law had a bank teller try to dissuade her from withdrawing $4,000 in cash. Tellers are trained to warn the elderly that these large withdrawals are often scams. My mother-in-law was convinced her grandson’s life was in danger and she ignored the bank’s plea. She then went to Kroger to wire the money, per the instructions. The Western Union representative refused to allow her to wire the money. She knew it was a scam. This only terrified my mother-in-law more because her grandson’s life was hanging in the balance and time was running out. She hurried to CVS to send a MoneyGram and was allowed to proceed.

When she got home, my son returned her call. He had been in class when she called to see if he was OK. He was alarmed that she called, as she had never called his cell phone since it’s hard for her to hear on the phone. In retrospect, he blames himself for not taking her call, being out of the ordinary. She also called her son, who also was in a client meeting and unable to pick up her call. He too called as soon as she had completed the transaction.

These types of scams are something I have trained insurance agents on for years, and it still hit my own family. She was only hit for $4,000, while I have many stories that are much worse. The scammers see that your loved one 1) has money, 2) is gullible, and 3) had no one to protect them. The scammers usually come back for more money and often get several payments before the victim is out of money or figures out the plot.

This happens to well-educated and sophisticated people. Don’t think your loved ones are immune from this type of scam. It plays on their fears of a dangerous drug culture that they are unfamiliar with. “My grandson looks like a kid who doesn’t get into meth, but then so do those kids I saw on 20/20 last night.”

There are many financial scams that befall this segment of the population. Can you hide their checkbook? Probably not. Could you set up two checking accounts so the one they have easy access to has a very limited amount of money in it? This would prevent most of the scams that hit the elderly, but you risk their anger in an attempt to protect them.

There is no easy answer. Have family discussions about common scams. That’s the best protection I can offer you.

Sylvia Gordon is co-founder of The Medicare Family, headquartered in Noblesville, where she educates thousands on Medicare and Social Security in all 50 states. You can learn more at

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