Senior Scam Alert: Precious Metals Firm Bilks Elderly for More Than $37 Million

When it comes to senior scams, all that glitters is not gold. Especially for seniors who believed the telemarketing pitch from American Precious Metals, LLC, in Deerfield Beach, Fla. According to the Federal Trade Commission, owners Harry R. Tanner and his wife, Andrea Tanner…

…ran a telemarketing scheme that conned senior citizens into buying precious metals on credit without disclosing the costs and risks involved — including the fact that victims were usually forced to pony up more money or risk losing their entire investment.

The FTC said the Tanners and their company, American Precious Metals LLC, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., fleeced elderly victims out of more than $37 million dollars. Pending trial, a federal judge has shut down the Tanner’s company, placed it in receivership, and frozen the defendant’s assets.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Tanners targeted elderly consumers with a get-rich-quick scheme that promised huge profits by investing in precious metals such as silver, gold, platinum and palladium. American Precious Metals’ telemarketers used strong-arm sales tactics to convince consumers they were being offered low-risk investments that stood to quickly double or triple in value.

…But despite the hard-sell tactics and other lies the Tanners fed their customers, they never used their victims’ money to buy any precious metals at all. Instead, after pocketing fees and commissions that were never clearly disclosed to consumers, they deposited the rest of the money in a clearinghouse account that recorded the investments without buying the precious metals.

The FTC also accused the defendants of regularly failing to inform their customers that their investments were leveraged and, as such, were agreeing to take out a loan and pay interest on up to 80 percent of the purchase price of the precious metal investments — which, of course, were never made.

Read the full article here.

Since the FTC took action against American Precious Metals, LLC, in May, the court-appointed receiver has liquidated the assets of the bogus business, and begun distributing the funds to the Tanner’s victims.

But it’s not likely that anyone will get back everything they lost. And the even greater tragedy is that senior scam victims often don’t have the luxury of time to make back their losses.

Older Americans were hit really hard by the real estate collapse and financial crisis of the last several years. After a lifetime of saving, retirement accounts were devastated. Home equity lifelines disappeared. And foreclosure rates skyrocketed. Add fears of another Great Depression, inflation, and a universal distrust of financial institutions, and it’s no wonder that so many seniors have turned to hard assets like precious metals for peace of mind.

Thinking about investing in physical silver or gold? Do you homework first — and keep these tips from the FTC in mind:

• If you are buying bullion coins or collectible coins, ask for the coin’s melt value – the basic intrinsic bullion value of a coin if it were melted and sold. The melt value for virtually all bullion coins and collectible coins is widely available.

• Consult with a reputable dealer or financial advisor you trust who has specialized knowledge.

• Get an independent appraisal of the specific gold product you’re considering. The seller’s appraisal might be inflated.

•Consider additional costs. You may need to buy insurance, a safe deposit box, or rent offsite storage to safeguard bullion. These costs will cut into the investment potential of bullion.

• Some sellers deliver bullion or bars to a secured facility rather than to a consumer. When you buy metals without taking delivery, take extra precautions to ensure that the metal exists, is of the quality described, and is properly insured.

• Walk away from sales pitches that minimize risk or sales representatives who claim that risk disclosures are mere formalities. Reputable sales reps are upfront about the risk of particular investments. Always get a receipt for your transaction.

• Refuse to “act now.” Any sales pitch that urges you to buy immediately is a signal to walk away and hold on to your money.

• Check out the seller by entering the company’s name in a search engine online. Read about other people’s experiences with the company. Try to communicate offline if possible to clarify any details. In addition, contact your state Attorney General (www.naag.org) and local consumer protection agency (www.consumeraction.gov). This kind of research is prudent, although it isn’t fool-proof: it may be too soon for someone to realize they’ve been defrauded or to have lodged a complaint with the authorities.

For more useful information from the FTC about investing in precious metals, click here.

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New Medicare Scam Offers “Free” Glucose Monitor to Seniors

Seniors with Medicare benefits should beware of unsolicited phone calls offering a free new glucose monitoring meter for diabetics.

According to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, the offer is a Medicare scam designed to convince unsuspecting elderly victims to give up their Medicare number.

The caller claims to be from a government agency and says that they are informing seniors who have Medicare B coverage that they are eligible for the new glucose meter. That’s the bait. The hook is when the caller asks you to confirm that “you are who you say you are” by giving them your Medicare number.

Don’t bite! This classic “free offer” scam depends on the fact that — despite all warnings to the contrary — people still want to believe that they can get something for free. Especially something they consider an entitlement, like Medicare benefits.

Medicare NEVER makes calls to beneficiaries out of the blue. All official Medicare business is conducted by mail.

Scam artists may offer bogus products and services, pretend to be federal officials or insurance company representatives, or even set up fake health screening booths to steal Medicare numbers.

Consumers should always check their Medicare Summary Notices to make certain that they or their doctors have authorized the charges shown.

Common Medicare scams include:

• Sales pitches for discounted prescription drugs that never arrive.

• Telemarketers selling unnecessary Medicare-covered products or services, such as “Medicare Arthritis Kits” which do not exist.

• Offers of help in applying for Medicare-issued checks to cover prescription costs, even though Medicare provides the checks automatically to eligible individuals who reach a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage known as the “donut hole.”

• Free health screening booths at malls or other public places are usually safe, but scams do exist. Consumers should make sure that the screeners
represent a legitimate organization such as a local hospital or public health center before they provide their Medicare numbers.

Scam artists use Medicare and Social Security Numbers to submit fake bills or commit identity theft; and some may use banking information to charge consumers for products that are never delivered.

Click here for the original source of this post

Here’s another reason to protect yourself or your aging parent or loved one from Medicare scams… Having your Medicare number stolen may just be the beginning of a bigger nightmare.

Scammers who target the elderly are always looking for gullible victims who can be conned again and again. If they can get a senior’s Medicare number, why not go back to the well for a social security card or checking account number?

If you suspect Medicare fraud, call your state Attorney General’s office. You can also report Medicare fraud to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency.

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Senior Safety Tips for Summer Heat

As summer temperatures soar this summer, so do the health risks for seniors:

Sunburns are particularly dangerous for older adults. Not only because of the risk for serious skin damage, but because seniors are at greater risk for bacterial infections and other complications.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat and humidity can result in heat exhaustion — a serious medical condition which, if untreated, can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening situation that requires emergency care.

Dehydration is constant concern for seniors during hot weather because the ability to sense thirst often diminishes with age. Dehydration can cause dizziness that leads to falls, confusion, or disorientation.

Older adults are also more susceptible to breathing problems due to poor air quality caused by heat and humidity.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control that will help you or your aging parent or loved one stay safe in the summer heat:

• Drink Plenty of Fluids. During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour… Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

• Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen. Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

• Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully. If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

• Pace Yourself. If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

• Stay Cool Indoors. Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

• Use a Buddy System. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Click here to visit the original source of this post.

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How You Can Help Stop Elder Abuse in 3 Easy Steps

Would you know if your aging parent, spouse, grandparent was a victim of elder abuse? Maybe. Maybe not.

Elder abuse takes many forms, some more obvious than others. Physical elder abuse may cause bruises and injuries. Bedsores and poor hygiene and malnutrition are common signs of elder neglect — when a caregiver ignores a dependent elderly person’s health and personal care, safety, or emotional needs.

But other types of elderly abuse can be much more difficult to uncover. Financial elderly abuse — when a caregiver steals money, credit, and property by exploiting an elderly person’s vulnerability and dependency — can go undetected or unreported for months and years.

And there are far too many older adults trapped in a silent hell of repeated sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. Sometimes it’s because they are isolated and unable to get help. Sometimes it’s because they suffer from dementia. An elderly victim of abuse may not even know they are being abused — or their calls for help are dismissed as paranoia, confusion, or fantasy.

Sometimes the shame or fear of pointing the finger at a family member keeps victims of elderly abuse silent. Spouses, adult children, grandchildren, and other trusted relatives are often the perpetrators in cases of elderly abuse.

But the sad truth is that most cases of elder abuse still go unreported. Which is why June has been designated “Elder Abuse Awareness Month” — and June 15th is Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Across the nation, health and human services agencies are holding seminars and events to explain what elder abuse is — and how to stop it.

But all the media attention in the world won’t keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse… if you don’t do your part.

Here are three easy steps you can take right now to help stop elder abuse:

1. Click here for an excellent fact sheet about elder abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse. It covers the basics: What is elder abuse? Warning signs. Who is at risk? What to do. It won’t take more than a few minutes.

2. Send this post to a couple of friends or family members.

3. Ask them to do the same.

That’s it. Told you it was easy.

Of course, if you want to do more, the NCEA has no shortage of suggestions about how you can join the fight against elder abuse.

But the most important thing you can do to help keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse is to help spread the word — even if it’s just a couple people at a time.

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Financial Elder Abuse Study: Older Americans Lose $2.9 Billion Annually

As more and more stories of financial elder abuse find their way into mainstream media, concern about the widespread nature of the problem has led some experts to tag financial elder abuse as “The Crime of the 21st Century.”

According to data from the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse released June 1, older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, which is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.

“Our findings illustrate the dehumanization of victims that takes place in the process of financial abuse and further destruction of financial security that occurs,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“In almost all instances, financial exploitation is achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of an elder. In addition to this psychological mistreatment, physical and sexual violence frequently accompany the greed and disregard of financial abuse. The vigilance of friends and family can help protect elders from those who are predatory, which may, unfortunately, include strangers or even other loved ones.”

Click here to visit the original source of this post

How can you protect yourself or an aging parent from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of financial elder abuse?

Check out these financial elder abuse prevention tips from Metlife, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University:

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for older adults

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for family caregivers

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