This week’s scam alerts come courtesy of the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau, who are signaling an alarm that, once again, scammers are targeting the elderly for their dirty business.

It is a sad fact of life that scam artists frequently prey on the vulnerable, the BBB says in a letter detailing the scams.

Sadly, those victimized can include people who have recently lost loved ones. The BBB cautions those with elderly parents, other family or friends to bear this in mind if their mother or father passes away, and to counsel your remaining loved one about these scams:

Contracts for services allegedly signed before the spouse’s death. In this scam, less-than-ethical people offering driveway paving, tree-trimming or other home-related services sometimes visit the widow(er) in the weeks after the funeral.

When the spouse claims they know nothing about having hired the company, the sales rep produces a contract, allegedly signed by the deceased before his/her death.

The signature is typically scribbled or blurred and the service is highly priced. The company states that they won’t require the widow to take the service, but insists that he/she pay the agreed-upon fee.

They then remind their victim how “forgetful” the spouse used to be and that is why he/she never talked about the contracted work.

Specially-engraved trinkets. After the funeral, the widow(er) receives in the mail a fountain pen or other trinket engraved with the name of the recently deceased. Included with the invoice is a note from the business, with a message saying, “I thought you’d want this to remember him/her by.”

Sometimes the trinket is engraved with the name of the surviving spouse, and the note from the company mentions that the spouse had ordered the gift especially for that person.

Delinquent life insurance premium ploy. In this scam, an insurance “agent” phones the surviving spouse, with an employee allegedly from the funeral home also on the line.

The widow(er) is advised that his/her spouse’s life insurance premium was delinquent and that he/she must pay $3,000 so that the insurance funds can be released to the funeral home.

The bereaved is then asked for a credit card number to make a partial payment on the premium and to wire the remaining amount to the insurance company. Turns out that both the insurance company “representative” and the funeral home employee are bogus.

According to the BBB, scam artists probably look through obituaries published online or in the newspaper to find their next bereaved widow(er). Older Americans are advised to check with the BBB (www.bbb.org) whenever they are contacted by an unknown individual or business demanding payment for an unfamiliar product or service.

In a different scam targeting anyone eligible for Medicare, fraud artists are calling seniors and claiming they are from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Beneficiaries have reported receiving calls requesting their Social Security number, bank account number and other personal information.

In some cases, the caller claims that the beneficiary is being issued a new Medicare card and will need to pay an amount ranging from $79 to $399 for the replacement card. In other incidents, the caller claims he is calling on behalf of the new Medicare Drug Plan.

Wise Medicare beneficiaries know that Medicare representatives will not call their home requesting their personal information. And, Medicare does NOT charge beneficiaries for replacement cards. Beneficiaries can obtain replacement cards for free.

Legitimate Medicare drug plans will not ask you for payment over the telephone or Internet. Beneficiaries can pay automatically by setting up a monthly withdrawal from their Social Security check. They may also pay by monthly check or set up an automatic withdrawal from a bank account, but they must call their plan or respond to a mailed payment request from the plan to do this.

Beneficiaries with questions or concerns about any activity regarding Medicare should contact Medicare directly at (877) 772-3379.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Scammers have no limits when it comes to bamboozling you or your loved ones out of your money. Be a smart consumer: Question and check out anyone who comes calling uninvited wanting money or personal information, whether it’s at your front door, by telephone, in your postal box or by e-mail.

CINDY BEVINGTON is special assignment editor for KPC Media Group. Her e-mail address is cindyb@kpcnews.net.

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