While everyone is a potential victim of financial fraud, seniors are especially at risk. Scammers target seniors because they believe seniors have more money at their disposal than younger people and tend to be trusting and polite. Seniors lose around $3 billion a year to financial scams, but becoming the victim of fraud is preventable if you learn to recognize the warning signs. We’ve gathered information on some of the most common scams along with our top tips for how to protect seniors from financial scams.
Financial scams vary in their approach, but they all prey on the victims’ goodwill and willingness to believe what they’re being told. Some of the most common financial scams include:
- Government Imposter Scams: Some scammers will “spoof” government numbers or use area codes from Washington, D.C. to convince their victims that the scammer is calling on behalf of the IRS, Social Security Administration, Medicare, or another government agency. The scammer will then request confirmation of personal information which can be used to commit fraud. He or she may even insist that the senior owes back taxes and needs to pay immediately to stay out of legal trouble.
- The Grandparent Scam: An unfortunately common scam, this involves the scammer impersonating a grandchild over the phone and requesting money for some emergency, usually a medical bill, car repair, or jail bond. The scammer will often request payment by gift cards or money transfer, which doesn’t require identification to claim, and beg the victim not to tell anyone.
- The Sweetheart Scam: More and more Americans are looking for love online, but sadly, this has opened many seniors up to fraud. Sweetheart scammers create elaborate fake profiles on social media and dating sites, usually with stolen pictures and information, in order to fool older adults into falling for them. Scammers will then request money for travel or visas, then disappear with the funds.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: These scams revolve around informing a vulnerable senior that they have won some sort of prize, but with the caveat that they need to pay a fee to collect it. Scammers will deposit “prize money” into the senior’s account, and then deliberately bounce the check so that no funds come through. These types of scams are incredibly common and can sometimes lead to seniors losing thousands of dollars.
- Internet and Email Scams: Common digital scams include pop-ups which inform a potential victim that their computer has been infected with a virus. The victim then has to pay a fee to have the “virus” removed, or is instructed to download software carrying an actual virus that will steal sensitive information. Similarly, phishing emails requesting personal information pretend to be from trusted individuals or companies, but only exist to harvest data from unsuspecting victims’ browsers.
Despite the variety of tactics that scammers use to swindle seniors out of their money, there are precautions you can take to keep your loved ones safe. To help protect seniors from financial scams, talk to them about getting caller ID or an answering machine to screen their calls. Encourage your loved ones to be wary of any mail for sweepstakes, contests, or prizes, and to never give their personal information out online or over the phone. As a general rule, if something sounds too good to be true or seems generally suspicious, it’s best to just hang up, delete the email or throw the piece of mail out. Remember that con artists are professional criminals, and can defraud anyone under the right circumstances. If a loved one has already been a victim of fraud, don’t criticize them.
To help keep an extra pair of eyes on your loved ones, consider partnering with a home care agency like Aware Senior Care, a division of Home Care Assistance. Our compassionate caregivers can provide a variety of home care services including companionship, personal care, transportation, light housekeeping, and more. To get started, reach out to us online or give us a call at (919) 436-1871. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about senior services in Raleigh, NC and the nearby areas.