Watch Out for These Common Senior Scams
In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission logged 467,340 fraud reports from people aged 60 and older for a total loss of $1,040,451,194. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as most senior fraud victims do not report the fraud. You don’t have to become a fraud statistic. Read below for more information about senior fraud and identity theft and the most common scams to watch out for.
Why do scammers target seniors?
There are several reasons seniors are targeted by scammers. Scammers assume seniors have more money or government benefits that they can target. Seniors are sometimes less familiar with technology which can make them easier targets for some types of fraud. Many seniors are socially isolated, making them easier to exploit. Scammers also know that shame or embarrassment makes victims less likely to report the crime, making it easier for them to get away with it.
It’s important to know that fraud is not only committed by strangers. An unfortunate reality is that a lot of elder fraud is committed by someone the victim knows, often adult children.
What to do if you are targeted or a victim of fraud
If you are the victim of this type of fraud you may feel embarrassed or ashamed about what happened. That is understandable but don’t let those feelings prevent you from reporting the crime and seeking help. A few things to do right away:
- Call your bank, credit card company, financial advisor, and other institutions to make them aware that you were the target or victim of fraud. They can help you take steps to protect your accounts from future access.
- When you call your bank or credit card company, they can help cancel any credit or debit cards whose account information has been stolen. This will prevent the stolen information from being used.
- Change any pins or account passwords for any affected accounts.
You’ll want to contact a trusted person like a pastor, family member, or financial advisor who can help you navigate the situation. You can also report the fraud to your local police, state elder care agency or the FTC. Although these agencies will not usually help resolve your situation, they do use your report to work with law enforcement to prevent future crimes.
Common Senior Scams
Government impersonator scams
These scams normally involve receiving a call from someone who claims to be from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, IRS, or other federal or local agency. The caller may claim you have unpaid taxes, your benefits are being cut, you may be arrested, or other threatening claims. Or they may claim that you have a new ID like a Medicare card, and they need information to issue the card. They may ask for personal information like your Social Security Number, bank or credit card information, or other personal information to “resolve” the issue. The caller ID on your phone may even look like it is the IRS or other agency calling.
Do not give the caller any personal information. Most government agencies do not make unsolicited phone calls like this. Hang up and, if you like, call the agency directly at their official phone number to verify and report the call. A good rule of thumb is to never give personal information to unsolicited callers.
Computer tech support scams
Have you ever had a pop-up box appear on your computer telling you your computer has a virus or something else scary? Examples would be a pop-up box that tells you your computer has a virus or needs fixing and will then tell you to click to link to scan for the virus or call a number for help. Scammers use tactics like this to scare computer users into providing personal information, money, and even remote access to the computer. Unfortunately, seniors are among the most common victims.
If a box like this pops up on your screen, do not click the link or call the number. Close your internet browser immediately and then initiate a virus scan using the software you installed on your computer.
Prize, sweepstake, and lottery scams
In this type of scam, you will receive a phone call or email saying that you won a prize or sweepstake contest. To claim the prize you will be asked to pay for taxes, processing, etc. to claim the prize. Scammers may ask for account information but also commonly can ask that the victim mail cash or gifts cards up front. These types of payment are untraceable. Unfortunately, victims of this type of scam are often contacted repeatedly in the future by the scammer who wants to get more money from the victim.
If you receive this type of call or email, do not provide any personal information or send any money or gift cards. Hang up or delete the email.
Grandchild phone scams
Scammers may call pretending to be a grandchild or other family member who needs help. The scammer may say that they have an urgent financial need like paying for rent and will ask you to send money. Often the caller will ask you to keep it a secret. Another related scam is when the caller pretends to be a law enforcement officer who says that a grandchild has been arrested and instructing you to pay for their release.
Do not be fooled by those who prey on your natural love for your grandkids. Hang up and call the grandchild or their parent directly to verify the information.
Many seniors are isolated socially and seek new friendships or romantic relationships. Scammers can prey on these desires by setting up elaborate, fake internet profiles on dating websites or social media. They use the profiles to build trust with unsuspecting people and will eventually try to get personal or account information or ask for money.
Be very careful interacting online with those you do not know. Remember the rule of thumb not to send money or give out personal information.
Email and text scams
Scammers may sometimes send emails or texts that look like they come from your bank or another institution. They may say that your account has been compromised and will ask you to click a link in the email or text message to verify your information or login information or call a number to verify your login. Do not click the links or call the number. Call your bank directly to verify that your account is secure.
Be on your guard. Do not give out personal information to unsolicited callers or emails. Do not send money, gift cards, or cash to unverified people. If you have been a victim of fraud, no not be embarrassed. Get the help you need to try to resolve the situation and protect yourself in the future.
If you have been a victim or fraud or think someone is targeting you, please let your Beacon Wealth advisor know. We can make sure your accounts with us are secure and help direct you to other resources.