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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Scams and Seniors – What are the Most Common Scams And How Can You Avoid Them

The FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Justice Department, and many local law enforcement groups have all made statements about seniors being targeted for scams.  The FBI estimates that seniors lose more than $3 billion each year to fraudsters.

Many fraud schemes against the elderly are performed over the telephone, internet, e-mail, text messages, or through advertisements, but occasionally still include door-to-door approach.  According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the top scams targeting seniors include the following and are the most common to watch out for:

  1. Health
    • Health insurance scams requesting personal information
    • Health insurance scams offering or requesting money
    • Medical equipment telemarketing
    • Medicare billing calls
    • Telemarketers claiming Medicare covers their services or products
    • Blank health forms requiring signatures
    • Current scams revolve around Covid testing, DNA testing, and Covid vaccines. 
  2. Home Goods and Services
    • Door-to-door repairmen or contractors who have not been requested
    • Service personnel claiming to be sent by a utility company without prior notice
    • Contracts without refund, cancellation, or other legal details
    • Providers looking to install equipment without prior request
    • Anyone who asks for money before work is completed
    • Computer Technical support and cybersecurity – pop-ups warning of a virus to gain remote access to your computer
    • Reassessment of their homes for a fee or get a copy of their deed for an exorbitant fee.
  3. Telephones, Text Messages, E-mails and Internet Advertising
    • Telephone Robocalls such as for warranty expiring or “Can you hear me?” calls using voice signature.
    • Phishing e-mails and text messages from fraudulent e-mails of companies that the senior does not have an account with or that they do have an account with but the e-mail is fraudulent
    • Fake anti-virus software downloads
    • E-mails with an actual virus
    • E-mails asking for account numbers, update payment information, or unknown entities offering services that were not requested.
  4.  IRS and Service Provider Scams
    • Phone calls supposedly from the IRS requesting information or money
    • Social Security Administration threatening that your benefits are in danger of being cut off
    • Tax or service related mail asking for a signature or money besides regular bills
    • Offers or winnings for contests or lotteries seniors have not entered
    • In-person visits without prior notice from supposed collection agents
    • “Bank” or “bank card” requests for personal or financial account information
    • Current scams revolve around the IRS stimulus checks.
  5. Charity
  • Telemarketers requesting financial information over the phone
  • Claims that unfamiliar local charities need funds
  • Requests to support individuals or invest in new charities
  • The grandparent scam  where a scammer calls an older person and pretends to be their grandchild who is a financial bind and asks if they can send money to help them out.
  • The Romance scam where an elaborate fake profile is created, often on social media, and exploits seniors’ loneliness for money.

You can help protect seniors by sharing information with them about common senior-targeting scams.  Encourage seniors to allow loved ones to be involved in their finances, to ask trusted loved ones about requests for personal or financial information, to not hire door-to-door service providers or purchase complex contract items, to not give out account numbers or personal information when they did not contact the company directly, and ask for things in writing before committing to any payment, service, or providing personal information.

If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam.  Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust.  Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at: https://eldercare.acl.gov.   You can also report scams online to the Federal Trade Commission.


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