It’s no secret that scammers zero in on older adults. We seem like prime targets — generally less savvy with technology, more likely to be out of the loop about such scams and more likely to have a stash of money set aside for emergencies.
But you can outsmart these criminals by arming yourself with knowledge about some of the most popular scams affecting older adults.
Here are five common scams to look out for:
Most of the scams you probably hear about on your local news involve criminals posing as telemarketers. According to the National Institute of Senior Citizens, seniors far exceed the national average of those who purchase goods over the phone. The horrible part of these scams is that there usually is no paper trail for those who seek recourse.
One of the most common over-the-phone scams involves criminals telling victims that a friend or family member of the victims has been injured and is in immediate need of financial assistance. If you ever encounter anything like this, ask yourself why a complete stranger would be telling you about a friend or family member’s hardship. Contact your family immediately to verify.
Health Insurance and Medicare Fraud
In this type of scam, criminals try to gain access to your personal information through medical services. Some scammers try to do this by posing as Medicare representatives. Remember, all U.S. citizens 65 and older qualify for the service, and you should not be asked to pay to apply. Similarly, some scammers try to use the personal information they gained from you to fraudulently bill Medicare for services that were not rendered.
Internet Phishing Scams
Phishing scams happen when scammers send emails or communicate in other ways over the internet to try and gain access to your personal information. Never email your bank account or social security numbers to anyone, and if someone asks you for information like this, ask to be given a manager’s phone number that you can call. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not.
You’ve Won! Scam
The odds that you’ll win the lottery or some major sweepstakes in your lifetime is very low. So, if it seems too good to be true, it likely is. Scammers have been known to tell people they’ve won a large chunk of money but have to pay some sort of fee to access the money. While you’re depositing your winnings (which will bounce at the bank), the scammers are making off with your money.
Though this type of scam can happen over the phone, it’s so devious it deserves its own mention. The grandparent scam, which has been reported all across the United States, plays to older adults’ emotions. The scam often starts with a phone call in which the scammer says, “Hi, Grandma,” and asks the senior who answers if they know who is on the phone. When the senior identifies her grandchild, the scammer has all the information he needs to proceed with a financial request to rescue the senior’s grandchild from a financial hardship.
These five scams, unfortunately, affect hundreds of seniors all across the United States. To avoid falling victim, arm yourself with information like this and ultimately, trust your gut.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of one of these scams, visit www.stopfraud.gov or call 1-800-677-1116 to locate assistance in your area through the U.S. Administration on Aging.