Scams All Senior Citizens Should Be Aware Of
Scam Artists Often Target Elderly Demographics
Elderly individuals are frequently targeted in scams for a variety of reasons. Older individuals may be cognitively impaired/compromised, emotionally vulnerable, unfamiliar with technology, susceptible to shady con artist techniques, believed to be naturally gullible, and/or unaware of the dangers of disclosing private information. Senior citizens also tend to have sufficient funds from retirement and Social Security accounts. As a result, scam artists target elders via email, robocalls, online platforms (such as social media), and regular mail. Some scam artists even go door-to-door – targeting senior citizens face-to-face with various schemes.
At Griswold Home Care for Atlanta, we want our clients to be fully aware of the various cons, pyramid schemes, and predatory tactics elderly populations face daily across the country. It’s an unfortunate reality that an entire industry thrives on tricking a vulnerable population into donating, withdrawing, or transferring their money into accounts on false pretenses. That’s why we recommend following these helpful tips to protect yourself and/or your family from becoming a victim of fraud.
Here are some of the most popular scams targeting senior citizens today (per a 2021 U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging report):
Computer scams are on the rise. Beware of pop-up ads claiming a virus has infected your computer. In some situations, clicking on this pop-up will infect a computer with an actual virus. It might also open a page with a script asking for personal, bank, or credit card information to fix the virus. Some savvy tech scammers can even create pop-up windows to trick users into allowing remote access to their computer screen before holding the computer ransom as a form of blackmail.
The best advice here is to avoid clicking on pop-ups at any cost. Perform thorough research on companies or techniques before clicking on any ad that sounds appealing. Moreover, clicking on a pop-up or calling a phone number from a screen requesting money or making threats is never wise. If you can’t find an offer by going to a legitimate company’s website, the offer is probably a scam not even related to the company. Only offer financial information on websites you can trust and are familiar with. Want more information? Check out the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site to learn about tech scams.
Sweepstakes or Lottery Scams
This old-fashioned scam involves telling an elder they’ve won the lottery, sweepstakes, a vacation, or another prize. There’s always a catch: The scammer will then demand cash, gift cards, or money upfront to secure the winnings. They will often claim this fee covers taxes, processing fees, etc. Sadly, some sweepstakes scam artists are so convincing they can coax senior citizens to send thousands of dollars multiple times before they realize the prize will never arrive.
Don’t let your loved one be conned by this trickery. Remind your elders to be wary of any situation or offer that seems too good to be true! No one wins the lottery or sweepstakes out of the blue. You can be certain something is fishy anytime someone requests money to secure winnings. Never wire, mail a prepaid debit card, or send a check order to a stranger – no matter how enticing their offer may seem!
Government or Financial Impersonation Scams
This common scam involves a solicitor pretending to be a governmental or bank representative. They may request overdraft fees, IRS back taxes, or penalty fees. Many impersonators incite fast, panicky reactions by claiming they’ve spotted suspicious activity. They may even accuse the victim of criminal activity and threaten to file a lawsuit or criminal charges. Sometimes, impersonators will claim they have the power to suspend one’s Social Security number.
Once an impersonator has sowed fear, they will demand personal information or money – usually via a cashier’s check, wire transfer, or prepaid gift cards. An unsolicited phone call asking for money for taxes or legal situations is likely a scam. The IRS, banking institutions, and Social Security Administration will never call an American citizen and demand money, bank account information, or personal identification over the phone. Hang up and contact an official institution or the authorities.
Unsolicited & Illegal Robocalls
Robocalls/robo-dialers call mass amounts of telephone numbers and replay pre-recorded messages for anyone who answers. They often impersonate legitimate agencies, companies, and institutions to request credit card information, bank account numbers, or other sensitive data. Some robocalls will record the respondent’s voice and utilize voice signature technology to authorize charges or online purchases.
Robocalls often create general scenarios that sound reasonable. For example, many robocalls will claim a home mortgage or car insurance is expiring, and payment is needed ASAP. Many scamming companies even have the technology to spoof numbers so that the Caller ID shows what looks to be a call from a reputed institution. Blocking and not answering phone calls from strange or unknown numbers is another defense strategy. Whatever the case, hang up and call a known number to a verified organization if you’re ever asked for personal information or money.
Steps to Protect Elders from Fraud
It’s wise to be on the lookout for telltale signs of fraud. Some signs of financial irregularities include:
- Unexplained expenditures
- Exorbitant withdrawals, cashier’s checks, or gift card purchases
- Recurring charges from suspicious companies
- Unauthorized charges to unknown entities
- Outlier charges - unusually high or low
- Financial decisions controlled by strangers without formal consent
- Assets transferred to unknown persons
Are you worried your parents or grandparents are susceptible to scams? Here’s a list of easy-to-remember steps to help you prevent fraud:
- Emphasize phone/internet awareness – Warn your elders about the dangers of receiving unsolicited phone calls from strangers. Tell them anyone alleging to work for the government, bank, or IRS is likely a fraudster, and they will face no consequences for hanging up the phone and contacting a verifiable source. It’s also essential for senior citizens to have a system for keeping passwords, bank account information, and Social Security numbers private and protected. Reiterate the importance of never offering personal or sensitive information online or over email unless they initiated the transaction with a trusted source.
- Prioritize financial vigilance – Regularly check your parent’s billing statements and financial account for irregularities. Don’t hesitate to have an attorney draw up appropriate documents giving you Power of Attorney if your loved one is dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other symptoms of cognitive impairment. Having access to their accounts will allow you to monitor suspicious activity.
- Hire trusted caregivers – Be proactive and do your research before hiring a caregiving team to look after your loved one. Griswold Home Care for Atlanta is proud to be your reliable local solution for elder home care. Our caregivers are qualified, trained, insured, and vetted with comprehensive background checks.
Call the local authorities immediately if you believe your loved one is a victim of financial abuse. We recommend consulting with the following sources for more insights and advice on this topic:
Scams are increasingly complex and can target anyone. Don’t stay quiet if you think your loved one is a victim. Investigate the situation without delay!
Are you looking for reliable in-home caregiving services? Call (404) 567-5208 to learn more about our trusted elder care services today!
If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Atlanta, GA, call Griswold Home Care
and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (404) 567-5208