How to Protect Your Elderly Family Members from Scams
These scams target older Americans, from disreputable contractors to fake sweepstakes.
Imagine an IRS imposter calling and threatening to arrest you for not paying your taxes. Phishing emails that trick you into sending sensitive data or downloading malware onto your computer are also commonplace in the world today. This type of fraud commonly targets older adults. They are more susceptible to scams because they are accustomed to answering unknown calls, opening junk mail rather than tossing it in the trash, and are less familiar with social media privacy settings.
According to Larry Santucci, who co-authored a report about elder financial victimization for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, "Older adults make great targets because they have accumulated assets over time and are living off their savings."
In addition, some people are lonely or socially isolated, which makes them vulnerable to abuse. As a result of cognitive decline, it becomes increasingly difficult for one to assess risk or recognize when something is amiss, even when you are in your fifties. As a result, your ability to manage your own money may be compromised.
Please be aware of the following six scams.
1. Somebody calls to tell you that you've won—or have a chance to win—a jackpot. In exchange for your prize, you'll need to pay a fee, or cover taxes and customs duties. It's also possible that the scammer will send you a bogus check that you must deposit before sending a portion of the money back.
Beware of contests that require you to pay in order to claim your prize, even if the contest has a reputable name behind it. In 2018, this was the third most common scam reported to the Senate Aging Committee's Fraud Hotline (IRS impersonation and robocalls took the top two spots).
2. Someone sends you a message on an online dating site or through social media that says, "Don't you remember me? I'm your high school sweetheart from second grade. Nofziger says, "You look fantastic." As you and the seducer develop your relationship over the phone and email, they may ask for money to help them travel to you or deal with medical issues, among other things. Nofziger says, "These are some of the most devastating victimizations." Scammers defraud unsuspecting victims of hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as the dreams they had for themselves. "
3. Someone posing as a Social Security employee contacts you and tries to extort money or personal information from you by contacting you. He or she may claim that there is a problem with your account, that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspected illegal activity, or that you are owed an increase in your cost-of-living benefit. You may also be threatened with legal action if you don't provide information or pressured to send money.
4. As you sleep, your "grandchild" calls you, frantic and in need of quick cash to deal with a medical emergency, travel disaster or to get out of jail. The scammer tells you not tell his parents about this. As a result of his or her research into your grandchild's name, city, and school, he or she may be able to create a convincing story. The con artist may also claim that the distorted voice is the result of a bad phone connection, or even a broken nose.
According to Amy Nofziger, AARP's director of fraud victim support: You are "trapped emotionally" and can only think about helping your grandchild. Check in with your grandchild or an informed relative by hanging up and calling them.
5. Your computer is infected with a virus, according to a so-called tech support representative who called you. Your personal files will be accessed or you will be charged for their services once you grant remote access to them. Use the contact information on your devices to contact tech support. According to the Federal Trade Commission, people 60 and older were five times more likely than younger people to report losing money to these scams, with a median loss of $500.
Avoid relying on your caller ID if you're unsure about the legitimacy of a call. Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213 to speak with a real representative.
6. Fake contractors will knock on doors and offer to fix things, often taking advantage of a recent natural disaster. As soon as they are paid, they disappear without a trace. Ignore their offers. Go out and find some contractors on your own.