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Thanks to the Internet, fraud is becoming more prevalent and scammers are getting more creative.

Unfortunately, they often target seniors and retirees, many who have a lifetime of savings in their accounts — leaving thieves seeing green. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that, “In 2012, 19 percent of those who complained about identity theft and provided their age to the FTC reported being over the age of 60.”

You’ve worked hard your whole life to save for retirement, and the last thing you want is to put your life savings in jeopardy. So, what can you do?

Recognize these 10 scams and say “Scram!”

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) provides a list of the top 10 scams targeting seniors. Here are a few highlights from the list, along with some tips on how to protect yourself:

Scam How to protect yourself
Health care fraud:
Examples: Scammers may offer counterfeit prescriptions or fake anti-aging remedies, getting you to pay for products that won’t help you. Additionally, they may pose as a Medicare representative, asking you to provide personal information they could turn around and provide to bill Medicare and obtain your money.
  • If you’re pitched medical products or services over the phone, politely decline or hang up. Be wary of “free” or “guaranteed” claims, as they are often an indicator of a scam.
  • Remember that Medicare doesn’t call or visit you to sell you anything. And, don’t give out your Insurance Claim Number (on your Medicare card) to anyone aside from your doctor or other Medicare or Medicaid provider. For more ways to prevent Medicare fraud, check out these tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice.
Telemarketing scams:
Examples: Scammers may try to sell fake products and services and ask for credit card information over the phone. In many cases, they will then share your information with other scammers, increasing the likelihood of you becoming a victim again. Read the full NCOA article for specific examples of telemarketing scams.
  • The Federal Trade Commission provides a lot of valuable resources to help you prevent telemarketing fraud, including how to identify a scam and tips for responding to unexpected sales call.
  • Check out these tips from AARP for avoiding telemarketing fraud.
Sweepstakes and lottery scams:
Examples: Scammers may inform you that you’ve won something like the lottery, but that you need to pay a fee to claim your prize. They then keep that fee for themselves.
  • Most junk mail is just that — junk. Securely dispose of this mail, such as shredding it. Remember, if you didn’t sign up for a contest, you probably didn’t win anything.
  • CNBC offers a few good tips for avoiding this type of scam, including warnings around counterfeit checks and signing up for “free” offers.
Investment scams:
Examples: Scammers may promise a great profit for little or no risk. Examples of investment schemes include Ponzi schemes
and pyramid schemes (click these links for definitions from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission).
  • offers several ways you can learn to identify a potential investment scam and protect yourself, as well as several sources you can reach out to for help if you have questions or concerns about a particular investment.

Remember, when it comes to most scams, the best line of defense is to be aware, cautious and prepared. If you think something sounds fishy or too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re the slightest bit unsure, listen to your gut and say no, or politely say you need to think about it. A credible source should have no problem letting you get back to them. And no matter what, don’t give out your personal details, credit card, or bank account information over email or phone to a source you don’t know or don’t trust.

For the full 10 scams, visit the NCOA website. And for more information on fraud and how to protect yourself, check out IRS “Dirty Dozen” Tax Schemes for 2014.

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