Studies have shown senior citizens are frequently the target of various investment scams, with many losing money and property to dishonest and predatory operators. The good news is that armed with the following information – seniors will know what to look for and can identify and avoid such scams.
Here is a list of the common scams that target the elderly, and how each operates.
An old favorite for the scamsters, Pyramid schemes assure high returns to investors, but the only people who systematically get rich from these schemes are the promoters themselves. These investment opportunities generally promise large profits based on the investors’ ability to enlist other people to join the programs. Because the scheme uses the money from new investors to make payments to the old ones, some initial investors make money, but sooner or later, these schemes collapse and most of the investors lose all their money. Pyramid schemes often have no other source of revenue except for money put in by the new investors.
Investment seminars do help to make money, but the ones who are consistently laughing their way to the bank are the advice peddlers. They are the ones making money from the admission charges, books, posters and audiotapes/ CDs sales. You should be very wary whenever you are offered any such get-rich-quick schemes.
These scams bring to mind the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. Investment scam victims often let the scamsters take them for a ride repeatedly. This is because the scammers promise to compensate the previous losses and bring in fresh gains. After losing some funds, seniors who have been duped once often go along with the new schemes with the hope of recouping their losses. Instead, they compound the damage and let the con artists take away more from their savings.
It is true that most of the equipment lease deals are genuine, but there are quite a few tricksters operating who try to take advantage of the seniors by selling interests in ATMs, pay phones and Internet kiosks. What generally happens in such a scam is that companies sell equipment through intermediaries and then agree to lease back the equipment for a fee. Investors are promised huge profits with no risk. But the unrealistically high commissions and returns that they claim to pay are not feasible, and would doom any project.
Gift annuities are basically cash/ property transfers to charitable organizations. A charitable gift annuity is just like a normal fixed annuity – except that a charity benefits from your investment. There is no problem with gift annuities per se, but many small organizations have jumped into the fray, promising high returns but giving only vague information about themselves. These are generally designed to relieve you of your funds or property, and it’s best to steer clear of such schemes.
While there is no shortage of con artists, most of them operate in very predictive ways, as outlined above. Seniors citizens can easily recognize these scams from the descriptions and methodologies mentioned here, and steer clear of the scammers before they are taken advantage of.