Common scams targeting seniors

Common scams targeting seniorsFind help and know you are not alone...

It is a sad truth that after retirement, seniors often become the targets of financial scams. Adults over the age of 65 are typically set financially and have good credit, both of which make them appealing victims of con artists. It’s important to be aware of common scams targeting seniors and know what to do when one occurs to guard against fraud.

The Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam is a common telephone scam where a scammer gets the phone number of a senior and asks them to guess which of their grandchildren is calling. When the senior responds, the scammer instantly has a fake identity which they will use to pull at the senior’s heartstrings. Often the con involves a sob story or emergency and will ask the senior to wire money through MoneyGram or Western Union which do not necessarily require identification to receive. The scammer will also beg the grandparent not to tell anyone that they called asking for money. Avoid falling for this scam by verifying that the person calling is your grandchild by calling or texting their phone number. Do not be afraid to check in with their parents to confirm they indeed are in trouble. Never send money to anyone if you cannot verify their identity 100 percent.

Medicare Scam

Because almost all older Americans are on Medicare, this scam requires very little research on the scammer’s part, making it an appealing scam. Criminals will pose as Medicare officials in various ways, by phone, email, and sometimes even in-person to obtain personal information they may then use for identity theft. Real Medicare officials will have personal information on file. To verify that the person is indeed from Medicare, ask questions. Be leery of giving out any personal information if you are not certain.

Sweepstakes and Prize Giveaway Scams

These types of scams have been common for many years and happens when a person calls or emails claiming that you have won a prize or a giveaway. Sometimes the scammer will ask for a fee and then send a check with the “prize money” for the senior to deposit. After a few days, the check will bounce, and the money will leave the senior’s bank account. To avoid this common scam targeting seniors, remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Telemarketing Scams

Telemarketing scams often target adults over the age of 65. Especially during times of national disasters con artists may pose as a charity and request a donation. Before making any donation over the phone, it is important to verify that the person calling is actually with the charity they claim. Ask questions such as what percentage of the donation goes toward the charity. Other types of telemarketing fraud occur when someone tries to sell you something over the phone. Don’t trust telemarketers who claim you must act now or the offer will no longer be good. Verify the legitimacy of a business by looking it up through the Better Business Bureau. For more information on telemarketing fraud visit the FBI’s telemarketing fraud page.

Mortgage Scams

Many seniors own their own homes, making mortgage scams a popular and lucrative scam for criminals. Often this scam will involve a letter offering a property assessment to determine the value of the senior’s home for a fee. Scammers will make the letter look more legitimate by including information they found about the property online. To ensure that a property assessment is authentic, ask what company the person works for and then follow up with that company before paying any money.

If you are the victim of a scam...

Older adults are less likely to report scams, which makes them more susceptible to becoming a victim of one, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The lack of reporting may be due to embarrassment, shame, or simply not realizing that a scam attempt occurred. These common scams targeting seniors are just common. They happen, do your best to be reminded of this.  Con artists may also prey on the elderly with the hope that poor memory or other cognitive functions may impede sufficient details to prosecute. 

However, it is essential to report a scam if you believe one has occurred. If you or a family member think you have been the victim of an internet scam, you can file a report via the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you believe a scam occurred, you should also report it through Adult Protective Services. Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored national resource line, can help you find the number for APS in your area. They can be reached at 1-800-677-1116, or through their website.


Photo by Miryam León on Unsplash

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