You are probably reading this and thinking that you are well prepared to protect yourself from scams. After all, financial exploitation schemes are in the news almost every day. But even the savviest consumer can get taken. According to CNBC, it is estimated that older adults are cheated out of approximately 3 billion dollars a year.
A close friend and professional colleague of mine is constantly on the lookout for fraudulent emails. She made the mistake of opening a legitimate-looking email. She thought it was from the United States Postal Service.
Turns out, she released a virus on her computer and, someone gained access to her email and her pay pal account. $6000 in purchases later, she was able to put a stop to the payments. It only took a matter of hours for the damage to be done. Her entire computer had to be wiped clean.
There are so many types of fraud and scams it is hard to keep track. We have you covered with the most common types of scams and how to avoid getting tricked.
Most Common Scams Targeting Seniors
1. Impersonations to get money or your personal information
Impersonations run the gamut from people saying they are from the IRS or Medicare. IRS never calls people. Nor does it email. IRS scammers claim that you owe back taxes and threaten arrest if you don’t send a check. Medicare scammers call to say that they are issuing new cards (they already were last year). They tell you that you need your Medicare number and personal information. Medicare never calls or emails.
2. Sweepstakes and the Jamaican lottery
In this scheme, scammers call and claim that you have won a lottery. They say that in order to collect your lottery money you need to send a fee. These scams are conducted not only by calls but by letters and emails as well.
3. Romance scams
Romance scams usually involve dating sites where people exploit someone’s loneliness and vulnerability. Then they ask for money for medical bills or other fraudulent expenses.
4. Computer repair fraud
Someone calls claiming to be from Microsoft, Apple, or your computer company. Then they convince you to provide personal information. This can include bank account information before they can “repair” your computer. Or they require payment before they can begin work.
5. Elder financial abuse
Most people think about financial exploitation in terms of outside influences. Family or trusted caregivers are a huge source of financial exploitation. And, the incidence is vastly under-reported. People feel shame about reporting such incidents, or they are afraid to report them.
Caregivers can start to ask for money for car repairs, child care, or medical expenses. There have even been cases of female caregivers marrying an older male to access funds.
6. Phony Home Repairs
Someone shows up at your door and claims that your roof is in need of repair. They quote you a price and say they will start in a couple of days. You pay them 50% upfront and they cash your check and never come back. Or, they do the work at a high price for work that wasn’t necessary in the first place.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams?
The scams listed above are some of the most common examples. However, people are creating new scams every day. These are not the only ones. Here is how to protect yourself.
- Don’t ever, under any circumstances give out personal information. That means to anyone at any time. Ever. Scammers are very clever at gaining your trust. They rely specifically on people’s faith in institutions like the IRS, Medicare, social security, and the postal service
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is. If someone calls to tell you that you have won the lottery, it is not true. Neither is some unexpected windfall
- Question anything that tries to scare you. Fear is a powerful motivator. Don’t let panic cloud your judgment. There is nothing that is so urgent that you can’t take the time to figure it out.
- Vet any potential romantic prospects. Yes, I know, not a very romantic approach, but vetting people before becoming involved is common practice these days. You can google someone or even do a background check.
- Don’t ever give money to a caregiver. There are ways to handle additional compensation by going through the agency. Also, don’t give gifts or other personal items to caregivers. Most agencies strictly forbid this.
- Plan your estate to avoid giving preference to certain children. Children exploit family members at a much higher rate than any other group. Plan your estate so that it includes a will that states the division of your estate. Don’t give large sums of money to an adult child without accounting for it in your will or estate plan
- Change passwords on a regular basis. Change passwords regularly on your banking accounts and other sensitive accounts. Don’t use the automatic sign-in options for sensitive information. Check your banking and credit accounts monthly to monitor any unusual activity.
Who to Report to
- For scams and fraud. If you suspect someone has attempted to scam or defraud you, find information on reporting at the official website of the United States Government.
- For identity theft. If you have experienced identity theft, report to the Federal Trade Commission.
- For financial exploitation. If you suspect the financial exploitation of an older adult from anyone, contact Adult Protective Services.
Protecting yourself from scams is possible with enough education and awareness. Keep your eyes open and be suspicious. Don’t make hasty decisions. Visit BoomersHub for more information and resources.
The best way to protect yourself from scams is by being informed. There are many ways to stay up-to-date on the latest scams. Be sure not to give away personal details or financial information to anyone. Also, don’t get swayed by fishy calls or romantic advances, and change your passwords every now and then. Finally, always report any scams that you come across to the appropriate authorities.
Be vigilant, and don’t let scammers take advantage of you or your loved ones. We hope this article has provided you with some helpful information. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.