Help Protect Seniors from Scams
Seniors are frequent targets and victims of scams; commonly someone will contact the senior via phone, internet (i.e., email), or mail. Many law enforcement agencies, from city, county, state, and even federal levels have acknowledged that seniors have been and remain victims of scams. The most susceptible group are women over age 60 who live alone.
Over the past few years, older Americans have been taken advantage of at an alarming rate. Con artists realize that while seniors might have a wealth of life experience, they typically are more trusting or simply don’t have the awareness of the multitude of scams out there today. Additionally, their stereotypical lack of technological know-how, combined with their accumulation of money makes them easy targets for those looking for quick and easy ways to get cash.
Types of Scams Targeting Seniors
One of the most common methods of scamming seniors is by phone. Older Americans are much more likely to answer the phone. Some seniors are lonely and just want someone to talk to; others prefer it to other means of communication, such as email, mail, and text message. Con artists might prefer the lack of documentation that comes with discussing a scam by phone.
Specific types of scams targeting seniors include but are not limited to the following:
- Health – Any time you provide your personal information to someone (especially someone that doesn’t identify themselves as an individual representing an entity that has legitimate reasons to ask for and access your information), you put yourself at risk.
- Charities – It’s easy for a telemarketer to say that they are raising money for a cause; if you want to donate to a worthy cause, be sure to research the charity to make sure it’s legitimate, and gives money to the people or groups they say they do.
- Home Services – If someone claims to work as a representative from a utility company (for example) and needs access to your home or yard, ask for proof, and call the utility company to confirm that the person is an employee before you allow them to enter your personal residence. Also, even if you have confirmed the legitimacy of the visit, or if you requested the visit yourself, don’t pay them until the job is complete.
- IRS and Bank Services – Beware of anyone that calls to request sensitive information such as your tax or bank account information. One prevalent scam involves telling the individual that they have won something or are due some amount of money (reasons and stories vary), but before they can receive the winnings, they need to pay a relatively small fee to transfer the funds.
Digital Scams That Target Seniors
Too many seniors get scammed online; it might be easier for con artists to conduct these types of scams since many older Americans do not completely understand how to recognize websites, pop-ups, and other types of ads as legitimate or not. Here are some tips to help you tell if something is or is not legitimate:
- Emails claiming that a friend or family member is in danger or trouble are usually not legit; if someone was really in trouble, they would call – or at least try to contact you via a more immediate means.
- If the subject of an email includes “Re:” but the sender isn’t a contact, beware of a scam.
- Any request for personal or sensitive information should be seriously questioned. Most of the time, if legitimate companies require your information (such as if a bank detects fraudulent activity on your account), they will likely call. Do not provide any of this kind of information online.
How Can You Help Seniors Stay Safe?
If you are concerned that a senior in your life (your parents or in-laws, for example) is being scammed, talk to them about how to spot scams and keep themselves safe, free from fraud or identity theft. Stay in contact with not just older family and friends, but also neighbors and acquaintances; the more people looking out for them, the better.
Tell seniors about the National Do Not Call Registry, available at (888) 382-1222. Also, create a list of legitimate phone numbers that might call; for example, the phone company might call from a certain couple of phone numbers every month or so to request payment, or the gas company might call from this specific phone number every six months.
Above all, communication is key to protecting yourself and those you love and care for. Make sure you know how to prevent fraud and identity theft.