Mickey Kunnary the Recipient of MCUCD's 2015 Philosophy in Action Award
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Tip of the Week

Recognizing Frauds and Scams Targeting Seniors

The way to prevent elder financial exploitation is to raise awareness because it’s the first defense in protecting our aging family members, loved ones, and ourselves. Once we are informed we can assist in navigating through financial questions and potential dangers. Below is a list of scams and a brief description on each, but know there are more out there.

The Grandparent Scam - A perpetrator calls a senior on the telephone and whispers or mumbles phrases designed to get the senior to reveal a grandchild's name. For example, the caller may say "Grandma, it's me!" or "Grandma, is that you?" By impersonating the grandchild and claiming to have lost a wallet or been in an accident, the perpetrator will ask the senior to wire money to the perpetrator - which often doesn't require identification to collect.

Medicare/Medicaid Fraud - Medicare's universal coverage makes it easy for perpetrators to pose (either on the phone, in person, or via email) as Medicare representatives and ask seniors to provide personal information which they can then use to set up accounts or apply for credit cards.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scam - This scam is usually perpetrated with letters, phone calls, or email. Whatever the form, the message will say something like "Congratulations! You've just won a lottery!" with a request to deposit a large amount of money into your personal checking account. However, you need to immediately wire a portion of the funds to a foreign account to cover various taxes and administrative fees.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs - Many seniors, because of health care costs, will shop around online to find the best price for their prescription drugs - and this is where scam artists might rip them off by providing counterfeit drugs. Not only will the senior citizen lose the money, but they will receive drugs that may actually harm their health.

Funeral Scams - There are two different types of funeral and cemetery fraud. One, the perpetrator will read the obituaries or attend a funeral to find the contact information for a widow or widower and claim he is owed money. The other scam is perpetrated by disreputable funeral homes that pad the already large cost of funeral services and add in unwarranted charges. Both scams usually are perpetrated in person.

Service Scams - The senior receives a telephone call from what seems to be a legitimate company. There are problems with their account and the company simply needs to verify some information. The caller seems to already have information about the senior so they feel comfortable sharing additional information, such as their account number, to help the company correct the problems.

Home Equity Scams - Unscrupulous people working in real estate, financial services, or related companies may use reverse mortgage scams to steal equity from the property of senior citizens. In many of these scams, seniors are offered free homes, amazing investment opportunities, or assistance with foreclosure or refinancing in exchange for their home's deed.

Nigerian Letter Fraud -In one of the most common financial frauds of all time, a senior citizen receives a letter, an email, or a fax from a foreign "dignitary." The correspondence promises huge monetary rewards in exchange for helping an official from a foreign country out of an embarrassing legal problem.

Payments Fraud - Payments fraud occurs when an individual uses one of several payment devices (e.g., checks, credit cards, etc.) to conduct fraud and steal your money.

Internet Fraud - These scams include a call from someone claiming to be from a large computer company asking for permission to access the senior's computer remotely to resolve a service issue or virus. The perpetrator then accesses saved data on the computer, such as names, addresses, account numbers, and other personal information. They use the information to apply for loans, credit cards, or to steal the senior's identity.


Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.