Did you know that older adults lose billions of dollars each year to scams and fraud? According to the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), in 2021 there were 92,371 older victims of fraud resulting in $1.7 billion in losses.
Scams targeting seniors can have a big impact on the finances of many senior citizens. Whether you were saving money for retirement, planning to pass it along to family members, or using it for daily needs such as groceries or paying bills can give you a new perspective on the world. No matter the amount of money you lose, those losses can reduce your sense of well-being which can result in insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties.
Sometimes the truth can be hard to swallow; however, it’s important to understand that you are not alone and that being a victim of elder fraud is not your fault. There are plenty of ways you can heal those emotional and mental scars as well as any fraudulent behavior from occurring again.
Why Do Financial Scammers Target Seniors
Scam artists tend to go after older adults because they believe this population has an abundance of money in their bank. However, it’s not just wealthy older adults who are the target. Many scammers are targeting older adults with lower incomes as well as individuals who are likely to not report the crime.
As a family member with an older adult, you must understand that scammers are always coming up with new tactics. Talk to your elderly grandparents about scammers. Ensuring that you inform them of current scammer targeting as well as the importance of giving out personal information.
Most Common Financial Scams
How common are financial scams targeting older adults?
In the five-year period ending December 31, 2020, the U.S. Senate special committee on Aging Fraud Hotline received more than 8,000 complaints nationwide. Financial abuse among older adults has become an up-and-rising problem, especially in these specific areas. The five scams outlined below made up more than 65% of these complaints.
- Government impersonation scams
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams
- Robocalls and phone scams
- Computer tech support fraud
- The grandparent scam
Financial scams often go unreported or can be tough to prosecute, resulting in them being viewed as “low-risk” crimes. However, they are devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a vulnerable position, making it difficult for them to recover.
Government Imposter Scam
In government impersonation scams, scammers call older adults and pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration, or Medicare. For example, if they are establishing themselves as a representative of the (IRS), they may say you have unpaid taxes and threaten arrest or deportation if you don’t pay up immediately. Or worse they could threaten to cut off social security or medical benefits if you don’t provide personal or financial information.
All this information can be used against you and make you a target for them to commit identity theft. The key takeaways are that government imposters may demand specific forms of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, cash, or wire transfer.
Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking, and social security numbers, and do not allow anyone else to use it.
The sweepstakes scam also known as a “lottery scam” is one many are familiar with. These scams are when con artists call you explaining you have won the lottery or a prize of some kind. Additionally, they persuade you by explaining that in order to claim the prize you need to send money, cash, or gift cards – sometimes thousands of dollars worth to help cover taxes and the processing fees.
Scammers may impersonate well-known sweepstakes organizations to build trust among their victims. Any type of suspicious activity should be reported to either adult protective services or a government agency.
Other initiatives you can take to prevent yourself from scams are by signing up for the “Do Not Call” list as well as taking yourself off multiple mailing lists.
There are different types of phone scams targeting seniors, including robocalls that offer free medical supplements, devices, or discounts. But if you respond, you may be tricked or pressured into sharing personal information.
Keep in mind, that many other scams also start with phone calls, such as IRS imposter scams which is when the scammer calls explaining that you owe taxes and you can be sent directly to jail if you don’t pay right away. The IRS will never initiate contact by phone or even ask for any unusual payment methods.
Tech Support Scams
Technical support scams prey on older people’s lack of knowledge about computers and cybersecurity. For example, a pop-up message or blank screen usually appears on your computer or phone, explaining that your device is damaged and needs fixing. When they call the support number for assistance, the scammer may either request remote access to the older person’s computer or demand they pay a fee to have it repaired.
The major problem is these individuals provide a fake identity and fool victims into giving them personal information.
If you’re wondering how you can avoid internet scams or internet fraud there are several things you can do. First and foremost you will want to handle all calls coming your way with caution by never giving any personal information or money. Also, being assertive and understanding that the problems they are explaining to you do not need to be addressed online.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If it does not feel right, don’t hesitate to ignore it or end the conversation.
The grandparent scam is so simple and effective because it uses one of older adults’ most reliable assets, their hearts.
Scammers specifically state that they are a relative and try to gain access to online accounts, and social security numbers, or ask for a money transfer. Issues with these scams are that these fraudulent people act like adult children as well as sound like them making it very easy for elder abuse.
To prevent financial exploitation from the grandparent scam, make sure you don’t isolate yourself. Isolation is a huge risk for elder abuse. Primarily, most family violence occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception.
Actions To Take If You’re A Victim Of A Scam
If you think you have been, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. Waiting could only make it worse, hence you will want to consider the following actions immediately:
Call your bank and/or credit card company
Cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account
Reset your personal identification numbers
Having to consistently look over your back to ensure you’re not at risk of getting scammed can be very stressful. Moving into an assisted living facility can help protect you or you’re loved one from financial fraud as well as provide financial assistance in any manner. The last thing any assisted living facility wants is a scammer to steal money from your loved one.
Make the process simpler and less stressful by reaching out to an assisted living facility. At Foxtail Senior Living we provide 24/7 care for you or a loved one. Visit our website today to learn more about our services and resources!