Sonya Sellmeyer

By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Officer for the Iowa Insurance Division

Con artists target consumers age 60 and older, swindling more than 7 million Americans out of almost $3 billion each year.  Those older consumers may have caregivers - a spouse, family member, friend, paid professional or volunteer, official guardian, or conservator. All types of caregivers are critical to the well being of our seniors and can play a proactive role in protecting seniors from fraud by being educated and knowing the warning signs. But be aware that family, friends, and neighbors are the perpetrators of financial fraud 34% of the time, and strangers such as telemarketers or investment promoters may also be the perpetrator.

Why should caregivers be informed about fraud against their loved ones or clients?

  • Seniors are the target of financial scams since they may have a lifetime worth of savings or a pension. 
  • Seniors may have cognitive decline or have anxiety about their finances.
  • Older individuals may be willing to listen to a telemarketer or take calls from unknown parties.
  • Con artists know that an isolated consumer is a perfect target. 

What are the red flags of financial fraud? 

  • Your loved one or client talks about new friends or strangers 
  • There is a noticeable decline in hygiene, appearance, or grooming.
  • There are changes in financial and legal documents, unexplained use or loss of money or possessions, or large withdrawals from bank accounts, or the purchase of unexplained gift cards.
  • There are unpaid bills when resources are adequate.

What are some common consumer scams?

  • Construction and home repair fraud
  • Fake IRS calls
  • Romance and grandparent scams
  • Computer tech scams
  • Contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Office at 888-777-4590 to report these types of scams or to obtain additional information. 

What are some common types of investment scams?

  • Oil and gas or gold and precious metal scams
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Promissory notes
  • Investments that follow the headlines (i.e. COVID 19 or Derecho) 
  • Contact the Iowa Insurance Division at 877-955-1212 to report these types of investment scams or to obtain additional information. 

Before your loved one or client makes any investment make sure the investment professional is properly licensed and the product they are soliciting is legitimate by contacting the Iowa Insurance Division.  

Medicare Fraud is also prevalent and may lead to identity theft and increase the cost of insurance.  Medicare fraud may be reported to the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 800-351-4664.

Suspected financial fraud may also be reported to local law enforcement, but if you believe your senior is in immediate danger, call 911. 

Additional information on all these scams may be found at the Iowa Fraud Fighter website. Check out the Iowa Fraud Fighter YouTube channel for recordings of the three virtual events held this summer. 

All Iowa caregivers can be Fraud Fighters by being educated and proactive against those who are attempting to take the savings of our seniors.