Each year, seniors lose billions of dollars to financial exploitation. This crime deprives older adults of their resources and independence. Fraudsters prey on seniors because as a whole, older adults possess more financial assets than other demographics. Seniors tend to own their own homes, have accrued savings over their lifetimes, generally have better credit and tend to be more trusting of others relative to younger populations. Criminals have engineered specific scams to target seniors. Despite the threat, there are steps seniors and loved ones can take to protect themselves, as well as recognize the scams that put them at risk.
Recognize the Scam
- Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information.
- Do not trust caller ID, even if it may look real, it can be faked.
- Never pay with a gift card, wire transfer or cryptocurrency. If someone tells you to pay this way, it is a scam.
- Avoid replying to unsolicited emails or clicking links from unfamiliar sources.
- Check with the real agency, person, or company. Look up the phone number yourself, and call to find out if they are trying to reach you and why.
- Report the scam. The Federal Trade Commission is the primary agency collecting scam reports. The scams can be reported online or by phone call.
Scams to Look Out For
- Imposter: scammers call or send texts impersonating government officials to manipulate seniors into sharing sensitive information. They often pretend to be a family member in an emergency situation and claim to need money right away.
- Lottery/Sweepstakes: Seniors receive messages indicating that they won a foreign or domestic prize or lottery, but are required to pay a fee to access their “winnings”.
- Email: Seniors may receive emails asking them to update or verify their personal information from a seemingly legitimate organization, but if they click the links, they will be providing sensitive information to scammers.
- Check Fraud: Scammers send seniors money via check, and claim they overpaid. They then ask the victim to send part of it back, but the original check was fraudulent. The victim ends up sending their own money to the scammer.
The scams listed can all be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Education is one of the most important tools in preventing elder financial exploitation. Seniors who are aware of prevailing scams and how criminals seek to exploit people are more likely to recognize frauds, and protect themselves from financial abuse.
Content provided by the American Bankers Association.