While this may make your stomach turn, lots of senior citizen scams happen every day. According to the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Report, American citizens that are 60 and over lost $1.7 billion due to financial scams last year. That’s one of the highest fraud losses out of ANY age group.
However, elder fraud isn’t the only issue for the elderly. The last thing you would want is for someone to take advantage of your elderly parents! Now, the question is what can be done? We’re going to discuss the most common senior citizen scams that you need to look after, and what can you do to avoid them.
The Grandparent scam
The grandparent scam is a social engineering attack, where fraudsters claim that the victim’s grandchild is in deep trouble. They will call you and pretend to be a police officer, saying that your grandchild is in an accident or involved in a crime.
Then, scammers will ask their targets to take out big sums of money, or even make a wire transfer to “save” their loved one. The scammer might even go so far as to give your grandkid’s real name, after managing to identify information in their online footprint, to make the scam more believable. In some cases, the fraudster might even pretend to be the grandchild.
- you receive an unexpected call that claims someone you love is in danger
- the caller requires money
- the caller doesn’t let you get off the phone
- the caller tries to manipulate you with emotional language, to force you to act fast
Government imposters scam
Scammers will contact elderly people and claim they are representatives from a government agency they trust. This might include Medicare, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or even the Social Security Administration. Fraudsters might use their knowledge to make phone numbers seem like they come from a real agency.
Sometimes, all it takes is for you to answer, as they can steal your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), to win your trust. This type of scam comes with all kinds of risks. For example, they might claim to be from Medicare, asking for your Medicare number. If you fall for this, they will steal your health benefits.
- You might get a sudden call from someone who claims to be from a government agency
- The caller tries to threaten you, requiring money through wire transfers
- The caller asks for sensitive information, such as your SSN, Medicare number, and even credit card.
Elder financial abuse
Elder financial abuse occurs when someone who knows the victim tries to gain access to the senior’s savings, credit, or even assets. They might trick the victim into signing access papers or even power of attorney. Plus, they could even try to threaten to withhold care if they don’t receive what they want.
- Unfamiliar charges that you don’t know about, new loans, and credit inquiries
- Calls from unknown companies or credit providers about debts you didn’t know about
- Sudden financial issues
What to do: Nowadays you should consider credit monitoring, with different fraud alerts to keep your financial accounts safe.
False investment scams
Retirees worked their entire lives to achieve the desired financial security. However, this might put them at risk of making false investments, that are specially designed to steal their hard-earned funds. When it comes to investment scams, criminals will pose as financial advisors.
They will contact you with what might seem like a lucrative investment opportunity. Even so, this is only an attempt to steal your money. Various investment scams are meant to target seniors such as Ponzi schemes, which are the most known, phony bonds or certificates of deposits, charitable gift annuities, and even prime bank scams.
- They will “offer” high returns, with little or no risk involved. However, remember that no investment is 100% safe or can bring returns
- The “advisor” will try to use high-pressure tactics, to get you to act as fast as possible
- You want to withdraw your principal investment, but you can’t (this sign might show that it’s already too late)
Fake software or tech support scams
The fraudsters will masquerade as a tech support representative from a company you use, such as Apple or Microsoft. Then, they will tell you that your computer or device is loaded with viruses, tricking you into granting them remote access, or even paying for software you don’t even need.
The main goal is to convince the victim to download what is supposed to be helpful software. However, when you proceed on doing what they ask you to, you will realize it’s malware that opens the gate to all sorts of cyber attacks that are meant to steal your personal information.
- All of a sudden, you get this phone call from a tech support worker. But remember that companies like Apple will never CALL you about these issues
- A pop-up ad on a website will say that your device has viruses, or promises you to make your computer “faster”
- The caller might use fear to trick you into downloading something or clicking on certain links in emails.
Robocalls and phishing messages
Retirees are more open to telemarketing or phishing scams than any other age group. With all the new robocalls and spam attacks that are constantly evolving, large numbers of emails or calls are made to exploit inexperienced or even vulnerable targets.
There’s even one survey that shows how more than a half of U.S. senior citizens reported robocalls scams. Luckily, these messages have a similar pattern, which makes them easy to recognize. The call pretends to be from a company you know and trusts, such as your bank, the IRS, or even Netflix.
They will try to make you give up all sorts of personal information, passwords, and even financial account info. Spam emails are even more dangerous because if you click any link, you might download malware.
- You receive an automated message that alarms you. The IRS or any other agency will never use automated calls to contact you
- An email or caller wants to “verify” sensitive information
- An email or even a message will have a link attached to it that you weren’t expecting
Sweepstakes and elder lottery scams
Scammers will reach out to a senior, claiming that they’re the winner of a huge contest or lottery, but in reality, no one won anything. Even more, the scammer will ask the elder to pay upfront fees and taxes to collect the “prize”. Scammers often string along seniors for a longer time, sometimes even years, claiming they are obliged to pay additional fees. But, as you can imagine, all the money goes to the scammer.
- You receive a notification that you’re the winner of a big prize from a contest you never played
- The person requires an upfront payment to some un-traceable methods, mostly wire transfers
- They will ask for your banking info
Elderly romance scams
This is probably the worst. Fraudsters will create multiple fake personas on dating apps and social media to find their next targets. The con artist will usually research you online and use what they discovered to “seduce” you. Once the connection is established, they will begin requesting money, often in the form of gift cards, travel expenses, and healthcare costs.
- The “relationship” advances fast, with the other one claiming they love you within days
- They promise to meet up in person or video chat, but they always find a last-minute excuse
- They will ask for money or financial help
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