Scammers are targeting seniors at a rate higher than ever before. From targeting them online to the telephone and even in person. Yes in person! These individuals prey on seniors by being kind and helpful and are very good at gaining their trust. They also will take an approach that time is of the essence and instill fear in the person in order to get them to make a quick decision and not have time to think it through.
Seniors are prime targets because they are typically trusting and good hearted. They usually are in a better financial situation because their home is most likely paid off, they have retirement savings and a steady income stream. Additionally, seniors are less inclined to report scams because they are embarrassed or simply do not know how to go about doing it.
How big is the problem: According to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, older Americans lose approximately $2.9 billion per year to financial exploitation schemes.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) lists the following scams that are most commonly targeting seniors.
1. Medicare/Health Insurance Scams – Scammers contact victims and tell them they need to issue a new Medicare card and need their Social Security number.
2. Telemarketing/Phone Scams – Scammers pretend to offer free vacations or prizes, extended warranties, advance loans etc. Older people as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average.
3. IRS Imposter Scams – Criminals contact victims saying they owe back taxes to the IRS and need to pay immediately or there will be dire consequences. The first contact from the IRS is always by official letter sent via the US Mail. They will never contact you via the phone initially.
4. Funeral Fraud – Con artists follow obituaries and contact the surviving spouse or family member to tell them the deceased had outstanding debt that needs to be paid.
5. Home Repair Scam – Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners for repairs that never are done or needed.
6. Charity Scams – Scammers either call or approach a senior in person telling them they are looking for donations for a worthy cause. Oftentimes this is done right after a natural disaster like a hurricane or wildfires.
7. Internet/Computer Fraud – A pop-up window appears on the computer simulating virus-scanning software which tricks the victim into downloading an expensive fake anti-virus program or a button promising to remove a virus but when pressed gives the criminal access to the computer. Or a senior receives an email from what they think is a legitimate company, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. Again, this allows the criminal access to all they need.
8. The Grandparent Scam – This one targets the heartstrings of seniors. A criminal calls the senior saying “Hi Grandma do you know who this is?” Once the grandparent answers with a name the scammer assumes that person’s identity and goes on to ask for money for a financial need (rent, food, bail). They ask the person to send the money by Western Union or MoneyGram which don’t always require identification to collect.
More terrifying, I have learned of a local incident where scammers tricked a senior citizen into having them go to the bank and then have the scammers come to their house in person to collect money to help their “grandson” get out of legal trouble.
Trust your instincts. When in doubt, do not give your information out. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, don’t be afraid to tell someone you trust about it. If you suspect you or a loved one has been the victim of fraud, you can call the National Elder Fraud hotline at 833-372-8311 and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting the agency’s website or calling 877-382-4357.
Hope you have a great week!
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