How to Protect Yourself Against Scams Targeting Seniors
If you’re a senior, you’ve probably received a scam call, been a scam victim, or know someone who has. Scams against seniors are on the rise. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that in 2021, there were over 92,000 older victims of fraud. Their total loss: $1.7 billion. That was a 74% increase in losses over 2020.
However, there are ways to avoid senior scams. Here are the most common financial scams targeting seniors, how to spot them, and how to protect yourself.
The grandparent scam
In this scam, someone calls pretending to be a grandchild in trouble, usually claiming they’re in legal trouble, had an accident, or have an urgent financial problem. The caller will ask you not to tell other family members they’re in trouble.
Scammers obtain consumer information by purchasing data from cyber thieves. They can use artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic voices and use technology to make an incoming call appear to come from a trusted source.
Protect yourself by verifying a caller’s identity by asking personal questions only your grandchild would know or by contacting other family members to confirm the situation.
Medicare/health insurance scams
Every U.S. citizen over the age of 65 qualifies for Medicare, making Medicare scams a common and easy scam. Scammers pose as Medicare representatives offering fake services or equipment, or claiming to need personal information.
Scammers may even provide bogus services for older adults at makeshift mobile clinics, bill Medicare, and pocket the money.
Government impersonation scams
A scammer calls and pretends to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Social Security Administration (SSA). They claim you owe unpaid taxes and threaten immediate arrest if you don’t pay immediately. They demand immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, credit card, or wire transfer.
Be aware that the IRS might call you, but only after they’ve sent you letters. The SSA says it usually only contacts individuals by telephone if the individual has specifically requested such contact. Neither organization will threaten you or demand immediate payment.
Internet and email fraud
Scammers target seniors for these scams because many older adults aren’t as familiar with technology. When you’re using the internet, never click on antivirus pop-up browser windows. Clicking on these browsers allows scammers to download a virus to your computer, then demand payment to remove it.
In addition, you may receive “phishing” emails and texts that look like they’re sent from well-known banks, cell phone providers, and credit card companies. Contact the company first before accepting anything or providing personal information through email.
Protecting yourself against senior scams
Even with all the scams and advanced technology, there are ways to protect yourself.
- If an offer sounds too good to be true, trust your instincts and investigate further before proceeding.
- Never share personal or financial details over the phone, email, or online unless you’ve initiated the contact and are sure about the recipient’s authenticity.
- Consult trusted individuals (family members, friends, attorneys, or financial advisors) before making significant financial decisions.
- Be aware of unsolicited calls; scammers can make calls, texts, and emails that appear to come from legitimate companies, government organizations, and even your bank. If you receive a call, hang up and call the company yourself to ensure the call is legitimate.
- Always use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Never click on email links that come to your email or through text.
Unfortunately, scammers are everywhere. They’re vigilant criminals who will do everything to take your money. Being informed and vigilant will protect your privacy and financial future.