Elders are often victims of fraud, neglect and abuse
The 2021 FBI Internet Crime Report revealed that Americans over the age of 60 lost almost $1.7 billion to fraud in 2021 compared to almost $1 billion in 2020. With the highest amount of losses out of all age groups, elder financial exploitation is on the rise and becoming more prevalent.
Scammers may take advantage of loneliness through romance scams, use scare tactics by impersonating government officials or claim to be lottery officials guaranteeing a payout for a small fee. Whatever the scam, the senior population is a prime target for fraudsters because they may have built up more savings, have good credit scores and be more likely to click on email links and answer phone calls during the day.
Common senior fraud scams
1) Tech support fraud scammers might pose as a tech support representative from a trusted software company claiming that the senior’s computer or personal device is at risk of being infected by viruses. The scammer convinces the victim to grant remote access to a device where they can steal information such as passwords, bank accounts, and other personal information. Other tech support scams can involve tricking the victim into paying for unneeded software.
Legitimate tech support companies will not contact you by email, text or phone to let you know you have a computer problem. Likewise, pop-up notifications will never ask you to call a phone number or click on a link. If you’re looking for tech support, use a company you know and trust.
2) Confidence fraud and romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain the victim’s affection and trust. A common confidence fraud is known as the “Grandparent Scam” where scammers pretend to be that person’s grandchild urgently asking for money because they are in trouble and don’t want to involve their parents. Seniors should be cautious of personal details shared on social media because this information can be used for fraudsters to groom victims.
3) Elder financial abuse happens at the hands of people the senior knows and trusts such as family, caregivers, friends, or even a power of attorney. Warning signs of abuse and exploitation include the inability to make routine payments, unexplainable expenses, or new credit cards. Stay involved in your seniors’ lives and financial matters to help protect them from financial abuse.
4) Lottery/sweepstakes/inheritance fraud is a ploy where criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust or claim their targets have won a lottery or sweepstakes, which can be collected for a fee.
5) Government impersonation involves a criminal posing as a government employee and using threats to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments. In its Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts webpage, the IRS states that it “doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.” Additionally, they would never call someone with threats of lawsuits or arrest.
6) Investment fraud often involves presenting guaranteed returns and low-risk, high-gain rewards. Examples include Ponzi schemes, distressed real estate scams, pyramid schemes, and precious metals investments. Deal only with trusted professionals whom you personally know.
7) Cryptocurrency, while a relatively new way to make payments, is also rapidly becoming a preferred way for scammers to be paid for any of the above fraud categories. Do not fall victim to schemes that advise you to send money via crypto ATMs, kiosks or online virtual currency sites.
How to protect seniors from becoming victims of scams
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Alabama recommends these tips to help protect seniors:
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals create a sense of urgency to instill fear and the need for immediate action.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
- Never provide any personally identifiable information.
- Never wire money to persons or businesses you have solely met online. Verify any email requests for money.
- Ensure all computer anti-virus and security software are up to date. If you receive a suspicious pop-up or locked screen on your device, immediately disconnect from the internet and turn off the device.
- Do not open any emails or click on attachments or links you do not recognize or were not expecting.
- Research online and social media advertisements before purchase to determine if a product or company is legitimate.
- Stop communication with the perpetrator but expect that the criminal will continue to attempt contact.
How to report elder abuse
It is up to everyone to prevent and address elder abuse. Report suspected mistreatment to your local adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman, or law enforcement agency which can investigate the situation. For reporting numbers, contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 (eldercare.gov). If you believe that an older person is in a life-threatening situation, contact 911 or the local police or sheriff’s department. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a scam, fraud or identity theft
- File a report with the FTC at gov
- File a report with FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
- Contact your financial institution or credit card company and close and place fraud alerts on your accounts
- Get a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and commit to monitoring it regularly
- Freeze your credit reports
Articles contained in our news section are not intended to provide recommendations or specific advice. Consult with a professional when making financial decisions. Once published, articles are not updated; information may be outdated.
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