8 Min Read
Seniors: Stay Safe from Fraud and Scams
The senior population is most susceptible to fraud and scams. Elder fraud often goes unreported, but an estimated $40 billion is stolen from older adults yearly. And unfortunately, that number keeps rising. Learn the signs and how to protect yourself and your loved one against fraud and scams.
Scammers often target seniors because they’re perceived to have more wealth. They’re also less likely to report the crime—the Federal Trade Commission reported that 41% of people aged 20 to 29 would report a scam compared to just 18% of those 70 to 79 years old.
Furthermore, seniors may not be aware that many scams have become more elaborate and convincing by impersonating a trusted person or company.
What to Look For
There are many types of scams, including COVID-19 scams, banking scams, telephone scams, investment scams, charity scams, and lottery scams. Often, scams are managed by professionals, which makes them challenging to recognize. Here are a few signs that your interaction might be a scam:
- Someone contacts you from a government agency. Scammers often pretend to be representatives from institutions like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare. Impersonating these organizations is intended to gain your trust, so you will provide them with personal information.
- There is a problem or a prize. Scammers will try many different things to get sensitive information. They may say you owe money, your computer has a virus, you’re in trouble with the government, or one of your accounts was compromised. Be wary of these claims because they attempt to scare you into compliance so that you will provide information. If someone says you won money or a prize but need to pay a fee before receiving it, this is a scam.
- There is pressure to act. Scammers want you to act before you have time to think about what’s happening. They may pressure you by threatening to arrest you, sue you, take away your license, or even say a special offer will expire if you do not take advantage right away.
- They tell you to pay in a specific way. Scammers always give specific directions on how to pay. They often suggest using a money transfer company or buying a gift card, and then prompt you to give them the numbers on the back. These forms of payment are not secure, and you cannot recoup any loss to fraud like you can with a credit card.
How to Avoid a Scam
While avoiding fraud or identity theft isn’t always possible, there are a few things you can do to help protect your assets and important information.
- Shred all receipts with your credit card number or personal information.
- Monitor your bank and credit card statements closely and report any suspicious activity.
- Never give out personal or financial information (your credit card, banking, Social Security, or Medicare numbers) in response to a request you didn’t expect.
- Sign up for Do Not Call to stop telemarketers from contacting you.
- Block unwanted calls and text messages.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses and organizations will give you time to make a decision.
- Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or money transfer.
- Don’t click on any links or attachments in an unsolicited email.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi to make any financial transactions.
If You’re a Victim of a Scam
Don’t be embarrassed if you think you’ve been scammed or notice suspicious activity in your bank, credit card, or other accounts. Don’t wait to talk about it—you should immediately:
- Call your bank or credit card company.
- Cancel debit or credit cards linked to the compromised account.
- Reset your personal identification number (PIN).
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission.