Senior Scams Alert – Top Scams and Ways to Prevent Them
Senior frauds are on the rise. According to the IC3’s 2021 Elder Fraud report, over 92,000 older citizens reported $1.7 billion in losses. Older adults are more vulnerable to scams as they could lack technical expertise. Fraudsters employ sophisticated techniques to implement their plans, and these techniques give rise to newer elderly scams each day. Here are different types of scams to be wary of and some tips to prevent them.
Types of scams
Social Security scams
Although social security fraud is a common story, it poses a serious threat to senior citizens. Con artists send emails or make phone calls while claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. They enquire about the confidential information in your account and try to retrieve as much information as possible. After getting the details, the con artists use your name to commit fraud.
Nonetheless, most scams attempt to trick you into disclosing confidential information such as your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card information. Always remember that the Social Security Administration representatives will never contact you by phone or email to seek personal information. Any such calls, emails, or texts should be ignored or deleted immediately.
This type of scam poses a significant risk to seniors because it can lead to identity theft and financial losses. Scammers pose as Medicare representatives, offering free or reduced-price medical devices, prescription treatments, or guaranteed vaccines. They trick you into disclosing your Medicare information. These con artists frequently prey on vulnerable older adults with limited access to information or resources.
To avoid becoming a victim of a Medicare scam, you should stay away from unknown phone calls or emails. Also, double-check the source’s legitimacy, and never give out personal information. If you suspect elderly fraud or information abuse, contact the Medicare Fraud Hotline or your state’s Senior Medicare Patrol program.
A senior investment scam can take many forms, but they all aim to deceive seniors like you into investing their money in shady schemes. They promise high returns with little to no risk. The following are typical financial frauds that target seniors:
The con artist gets money from new investors and distributes it to existing investors. This cycle continues until some victims discover and decide not to participate in the fraud. And by the time the scam is reported, the con artist vanishes with the money.
The con artist exploits a shared trust or interest of a specific group, like a church or retirement community, to solicit investments. To look credible, the fraudster pretends to be a group member or uses a member’s recommendation.
The scam artist disguises himself as a representative of a charity organization and requests donations or investments. The charity may not even exist, and the funds may be used for selfish reasons. These con artists rely on your sentiments to get as many contributions as possible.
Pump and dump plans
The con artist purchases a large quantity of stock at a discount and then promotes the stock to raise its price. These stocks are sold for a huge profit, leaving investors with worthless shares.
Scams involving binary options
The con artist provides a platform for trading binary options that claim to offer high returns with little risk. If the site turns out to be rigged, the investor can lose money and be a victim of a large scam.
Do not engage in unknown charities, stocks, or questionable investment possibilities that could turn you into a victim of scams. Be cautious of promises of high returns and double-check the legitimacy of the investment and the person making it. Verify the qualifications and registration of investors with regulatory agencies before making any investments. If you still need clarification, speak to a reputable financial adviser.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams
In this scam, the fraudster contacts the senior and claims that they’ve won a large sum of money in a lottery or sweepstakes. And to claim the prize, the senior needs to pay taxes, processing fees, or other charges. The fraudster also requests personal information to verify their identity. You should be wary of unsolicited calls or emails that state winning claims. Also, do not send money or personal information to claim a prize.
Tech support scams
In this type of scam, fraudsters prey on seniors by posing as trusted technical support. They may also claim to be affiliated with well-known technology companies or government agencies to gain credibility. The con artists contact you via email or pop-up advertisements, saying your computer has been infected with malware or a virus. Additionally, they demand that you install software that permits remote access to your computer. Once they get hold of the required information, they install malware or steal your data within a few minutes.
Scammers frequently use high-pressure tactics to persuade you to provide access or pay for services. They even threaten to delete files or disable your computer if you do not comply.
To avoid falling victim to tech support scams, ignore unknown phone calls or emails. Always validate the caller’s or sender’s identity before granting remote access or accepting payment for technical support services. Install reputable antivirus software on your devices and keep the operating systems and applications up to date. If you suspect fraud, notify the Federal Trade Commission or use the national elder fraud hotline.
Scammers use fake online profiles on dating or social media platforms to target seniors. They develop a romantic relationship with you over time, earning your trust and creating an emotional connection. Over time, they ask for money for various reasons, such as emergencies or travel costs. Romance scammers frequently use photos and personal information stolen from other social media profiles to create a convincing persona. They may also communicate with you using scripts and manipulate your emotions to create a sense of urgency and need.
If you become a victim of a romance scam, you not only lose your life savings but also experience emotional distress and humiliation.
Be cautious of unauthorized requests for money or personal information and confirm the validity of any online acquaintances. Avoid posting personal information or photos online to avoid falling victim to these scams against elderly citizens. Be aware of common warning signs, such as avoiding video chats and in-person meetings or fabricating personal information. Report suspicious activity to the dating site or social media platforms. If you become a victim of a scam, contact your bank or financial institution for an immediate solution.
Scammers connect with you, pretending to be your grandchild and claiming to be in financial distress. They give a range of reasons, like getting arrested, getting into an accident, or being stranded in a foreign country, paying medical bills, or travel expenses.
The scammer uses information from social media or other sources to make the story seem more authentic. They also ask you to keep the situation private, which makes it difficult for you to seek help from family or friends. In addition, the scammer often manipulates to wire money or buy gift cards, making it difficult for law enforcement services to track and recover the funds. After receiving the money, the scammer disappears, leaving you with a huge financial loss.
To prevent this scam, you must ignore any unsolicited requests for money or personal information, even if they appear to be coming from a relative. Take extra security measures, such as ask questions that only a true family member would know, to confirm the requestor’s identity. Never pay for gift cards or wire transfers in response to a request for money. In addition, report such scams on the elderly fraud hotlines.
Causes of senior scams
Scammers target seniors for several reasons, including:
Scammers target seniors as they are more vulnerable due to their trusting nature, lack of technological proficiency, and limited access to support systems, such as family or friends.
These fraudsters find information on your significant financial resources such as retirement savings, pensions, assets, and other funds. They use this knowledge to steal or defraud you.
Moreover, you may be more susceptible to scams that offer expensive health products or treatments because you may be more concerned about your health and well-being.
Scammers can take advantage of your kindness and generosity by pretending to be a member of a charity organization or a person in need.
Living alone can make you more vulnerable to financial scams as you are more likely to welcome unsolicited telemarketing calls or spam emails.
Scammers target seniors because they are more susceptible to manipulation and less likely to report fraud or scams. Therefore, it is important to be aware of these risks and take necessary precautions to protect yourself from such illicit activities. By being cautious about unsolicited requests for personal information or money and verifying the identity of callers, you can lower your chances of becoming a victim of scams. In case you are unaware or confused about the process, simply search for “how do I report an elderly scam” on the web, and you’ll find all the required elderly fraud hotline details at your disposal.
To prevent scams on seniors, you can take the following steps:
- Be aware of common fraud schemes and scams that target seniors. You can use educational resources, attend informational seminars, or participate in community outreach programs to learn how to recognize and avoid these scams.
- Be cautious of shady offers or requests, particularly those that ask for money or personal information. Always verify the legitimacy of the request before taking any action.
- Install and update antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices to prevent any online malpractices and phishing attacks.
- Use privacy settings on your social media and other online accounts to limit the amount of personal information that is publicly available.
- Regularly monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any shady transactions or unauthorized charges. Report any suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately.
- If you are a victim of a scam, report it to local law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission. Reporting such incidents can help prevent others from falling prey to the same scam.
Scams can be financially and emotionally devastating for seniors. By taking the necessary steps, you can help minimize the damage caused by scams and prevent future scams from occurring.
Steps to take after discovering a fraud
Take these necessary steps to report the crime and minimize the damage:
Contact financial organizations
The first step is to inform the right authorities about the scam and request assistance. If the scammer has gained access to any financial information, alert the bank or credit card provider to prevent any further fraudulent activities.
Contact the police
Reach out to the police immediately if you or your loved one has lost money or personal information due to the scam. File a report and initiate an investigation.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC is responsible for consumer protection and fraud prevention. You can report a scam on their website and find out ways to protect yourself and recover the loss.
Contact the state attorney general’s office
The attorney general’s office upholds consumer protection laws in your state. They can help you and other elderly people scammed out of money recover lost funds and prosecute scammers.
Contact the bank or financial institution
If the scammer has accessed bank account information, inform the bank to report the scam and prevent further unauthorized transactions.
Contact local senior services organizations
Seek resources and support from local senior service organizations. They refer you to legal or financial experts who can help in the process.
Seek legal actions
As a senior citizen, you have several legal options to pursue justice and recover damages.
Make a formal complaint to the authorities
Notify the police, the FTC, and the state attorney general’s office about the scam. This can help investigators find offenders and gather evidence against them.
Consult a lawyer
A lawyer with experience in elder law or consumer protection can provide legal counsel and help you understand your options for pursuing financial damages. They can also help you file a lawsuit against the scammers and represent you in court if necessary.
File a lawsuit
In case of huge financial losses or other damages due to the scam, you can sue the con artists. An attorney can assist you in navigating this process.
In some cases, the court may order the scammers to pay restitution. This can help you recover some or all of your financial losses from the scam.
Remember that litigation can be a time-consuming and stressful process, resulting in a favorable outcome on rare occasions.
This is an all-in-one antivirus and security suite that can shield any device from viruses, malware, and other online threats. It also includes features like a firewall and parental controls. Norton also has senior-specific programs like Norton LifeLock that work against identity theft and other financial or online scams. LifeLock has three packages Standard, Advantage, and Ultimate Plus. Norton will assign an identity restoration specialist to work with you through the process in case of identity theft.
PrivacyGuard provides users with credit and identity theft protection. You can choose the services according to your requirements. The PrivacyGuard ID Protection keeps tabs on public records, ID verification requests, social security numbers, and online directories. It also monitors your credit score and maintains monthly credit reports.
Experian is among the top three credit bureaus in the country. In addition to credit security, it also provides you with identity theft protection services. It monitors your credits, transactions, social security number, social networks, and more. You also get access to the company’s dedicated fraud resolution services and support.
Identity Guard ®
Aura’s Identity Guard® makes use of Watson AI by IBM to constantly scan and monitor for suspicious activity. You can also set up a watchlist when you sign up to let the AI know what it needs to be on the lookout for. It has different packages based on the services you require.
Apart from these options, there are several software and services available to help you protect your devices and prevent illicit activities. However, note that no particular software or service can provide complete protection from all cyber crimes. It is best to educate yourself and be vigilant about other online threats. Follow safe browsing practices and exercise caution when interacting online.