No Tricks! Keeping Seniors Safe from Scams

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Millions of elderly Americans are duped by some type of financial fraud or con – from romance to lottery, sweepstakes to medical, seniors lose more than $3 billion annually. And as the population of seniors grow, the profits criminals can command will grow as well. Here is information from the FBI about common scams – and how to protect yourself from them and where to report if you find yourself a victim.

Con artists gain their targets’ trust and communicate via computer, phone, mail, as well as TV and radio. And once they have found a fruitful target, scammers will just keep the scam going as they eye significant financial rewards. Seniors tend to be trusting and polite – and often have savings, own their home, and have good credit, making them very attractive targets.

What’s more, seniors are often less inclined to report fraud, either because they don’t know how to, or they are just too embarrassed at having been scammed. They might also worry that their relatives will question their ability to manage their own financial affairs.

Common Scams Targeting Seniors:

Romance: Criminals exploit the loneliness of single seniors by posing as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites.

Tech support: Scammers pose as “technology support reps” offering to fix a non-existent computer problem, allowing them to gain access to the sensitive information on a victim’s devices.

Grandparent: A criminal poses as a relative (often a child or grandchild) claiming to be in immediate need of funds.

Government impersonation: Criminals pretend to be government employees and threaten legal action or imprisonment unless funds or debts are paid.

Sweepstakes/charity/lottery: Scammers claim to work for legitimate charities, or claim their target has won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes – but they have to pay a “fee” to collect.

TV/Radio: Illegitimate organizations post advertisements for legitimate services such as reverse mortgages or credit assistance.

How can you protect yourself?

  • As soon as you recognize a scam attempt, end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, company, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Look for reviews – and for information about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • If you feel pressured to act quickly – don’t! That sense of urgency is used to produce fear and get victims to take immediate action.
  • Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Just say no to unsolicited phone calls and door-to-door services offers.
  • A legitimate government agency – like the IRS – will NEVER call you. They will send you something via mail if they need to reach you.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

How to Report

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, you can submit a tip online. When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—include as many of the following details as possible:

  • Names of the scammer and/or company
  • Dates of contact
  • Methods of communication – phone, computer, email, TV, etc.
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  • Methods of payments made
  • Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  • Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given
  • Keep original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.

Stay safe this Halloween and all year long by protecting yourself and your senior loved ones. Have a safe holiday – all treats, no tricks!

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