Scams aimed at seniors can range from fraudsters who pedal bogus anti-aging products for less than $30 to a fake “cash award” racket that empties a $300,000 nest egg. In all, seniors lose an estimated $3 billion a year to scams and other financial abuse. Here are some of the common swindles, according to experts:

Medicare Open-Enrollment Ploy

What it is. In the fall, a few weeks before Medicare Open Enrollment begins, individuals claiming to be from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) call seniors saying the agency is issuing new Medicare ID cards. But to receive the card, seniors must confirm their identity by volunteering their bank account information and often their Social Security number. The callers then use that information to debit the seniors’ accounts and commit other forms of identity theft.

How to protect yourself. Never respond to a phone request to confirm your identity. Medicare will never call, email, or visit you to ask for your personal information.

Veterans’ Pension Scam

What it is. Veterans over 65 are offered free seminars by financial advisers or financial-services companies to help them qualify for an enhanced pension with Aid and Attendance, a benefit for low-income vets with disabilities. Seminar sponsors convince vets whose income or assets are above the threshold to restructure their finances so they’ll qualify, typically by buying a costly annuity or creating an expensive trust that pays the sponsors a hefty fee.

How to protect yourself. For details about your eligibility for this benefit, go to the VA’s online benefits portal. For assistance completing and filing pension claims, use someone from the VA’s list of accredited professionals.

Pump and Dump Investment Schemes

What it is. Telemarketing stockbrokers call seniors to hard-sell a thinly traded stock, with the goal of creating a buying frenzy that will push the share price up. When the price climbs, the stockbrokers dump their shares at a profit and quit promoting the company, causing the price to quickly fall, wiping out the shareholder value.

How to protect yourself. Research any security through independent sources, such as Morningstar.com or finance.yahoo.com, before you buy. Also be extremely cautious about buying any foreign, or “offshore,” investments: Once you’ve sent money abroad, tracing it can be difficult.


Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.