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Date of Issue: February 08, 2007

Beware of senior scams

With many senior citizens now living on the Island and in west Bradenton, the Home Instead Senior Care Group has listed a number of scams that seniors are susceptible to, particularly in Florida.

The top five senior scams are:

Prizes and sweepstakes scams.

Seniors are told that they’ve won a sweepstakes and all they need to do is send a check to cover the taxes. Or, the senior citizen receives a fake check for $5,000 and is encouraged to deposit the check and return $2,000 to cover the taxes. By the time the senior realizes that these checks - usually from an overseas bank - are worthless, the senior has lost the money mailed to the con artist.

Home improvement frauds.

Criminals will knock on the door of a senior citizen, offering to fix their driveway. They then just paint the driveway black and charge the senior $3,000. Or, seniors are asked to pay up front to have their roof fixed, never to see their alleged repairman again.

Phishing schemes.

Seniors receive a call from someone claiming to represent a bank or other reputable financial institution. The senior is warned that their financial information or credit card has been compromised and are asked to verify their account information to the “bank official,” or call an 800 number where they are asked for their personal information.

Internet fraud.

Many seniors are unfamiliar with how to use the Internet and Web sites. They can unwittingly give their credit card number to a scammer. One favorite Internet scam is an e-mail from your bank claiming that it needs your account information because it’s updating its security system. Don’t be fooled. Your bank will never send you an e-mail, but will mail you a personal letter signed by a bank officer asking you to come in and verify your identity.

Identify theft.

Seniors who give up their birth date and Social Security number can open up their entire financial history to a thief.