By Dr. Michael Warren 

Dear readers,
I have finally become lucky. My family’s financial future will be realized. I recently got a letter from someone in Nigeria who has informed me that I have won a huge amount of money and he needs my bank account number and Social Security number so he can transfer the money to me.

I’ll bet you figured out the scam as soon as I said Nigeria. OK, you are right and to prove my mental stability, I didn’t send him anything.

But, I did get this letter from a friend who was stranded in France, was robbed, had no money and needed me to wire him some funds so he could get home. Of course, I did just send him some, earlier today. (Sarcasm!)

Folks, there thousands of scams out there and even more scammers. All are bad people and some are downright vultures, who usually find the best people to prey on are senior citizens, the more senior the better.

There is even a television program whose purpose is to uncover and warn us of them.

One particularly egregious one is to scam senior citizens regarding their health care. The system is to promise them anything, take their money and run. Their secret weapon is to appear to be health care providers actually interested in providing appropriate health care services but uninterested in you once they get your money.

A reader recently notified me about some dishonest Medicare home health care scammers that deal in everything from providing medical equipment for home use to in house or skilled nursing services. The problem is that there is a need for these types of services and many bona fide organizations do provide services in an honest way. The truly professional companies hate these scammers as much as you and I do.

And just yesterday I got a phone call from someone who was very happy to tell me that someone had given me a gift of an emergency call device, with a button to push to get help and he wanted to know when to deliver it. It sounded so real that I didn’t realize it was a recording until I asked him a question and he ignored me and went right on talking.

Well, I do believe in these medical call devices, and I think everyone who lives alone should have one, just in case. We have all heard of situations when someone falls and can’t get help. It may take days for help to arrive. But, when it is clearly part of a scam, it annoys me. Since nobody ever gives me anything for free, I just hung up.

So, what to do? You have to have a healthy skepticism about these types of solicitations, whether by phone, mail, email or a knock on the door.

One thing for sure: Never give out any personal information to these people. If they are legit, they should give you a phone number to call them back, or to send you some literature about the product they are selling so you can decide if you want to purchase their product or service at your leisure.

Check the company out with the Better Business Bureau, or with people you know who may have also been solicited. Often scams are reported in the newspaper. But, be warned, it is up to you to be suspicious of all offers that sound too good to be true. They usually are not.

On the other hand, I may just go to Nigeria to pick my money personally.

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at