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Fraud losses among the elderly exceed $3 billion annually, according to the US Department of Justice. It is believed that $3 billion is a low estimate, as many occurrences of elderly scams go unreported. These statistics rose significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to rise today. Comparatively, the losses pertaining to elder financial scams were up 74% from 2020 to 2021.
The elderly population is particularly vulnerable to falling victim to fraud. The presence of a retirement fund guarantees that money is available for siphoning, making this demographic a prime target for scammers. The elderly population is also often unfamiliar with the ever-changing technology, trusting of others, and reliant on benefits. All these factors mark them as easy targets. As the occurrence of fraud continues to rise, it is important to be aware of the most common scams that target senior citizens today.
Seniors are not as familiar with technology as younger generations are. However, it’s almost a requirement to use it, so they do their best. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to malware and phishing scams. These scams involve a fake email, link, or popup that, when clicked, the hacker can gain access to the computer. This access can allow for identity theft and access to bank accounts and other personal information. Often, the email or popup will look like it’s from a business or company that the victim knows or uses. Antivirus software and firewalls will help protect against these tech scams.
Like other age groups, the senior citizen population seeks love and companionship. With online dating and apps, the scammer sets up a fake profile. They may say they live abroad or have other excuses as to why they can’t meet in person. The scammer manipulates the victim to gain trust, establishing a close friendship or romantic online relationship. At this point, the scammer will ask for money. Sometimes this type of manipulation goes on for months or years.
If it sounds too good to be true, beware. Scammers will contact victims and inform them that they have won a sweepstake or lottery. They may request a fee for the winnings to be distributed. Reasons for this fee may include insurance, shipping, and handling, tax, etc. In other cases, the scammers ask for a bank account and routing number for the distribution of the winnings.
Fake Prescription Drug Scams
Online pharmacies are growing in popularity as they offer savings and convenience. While there are legitimate online pharmacies, many online pharmacies sell counterfeit or fake drugs. This not only places someone at risk for fraud, but it can be very dangerous to their health. Therefore, it is best practice to only obtain medication from trusted pharmacies.
Social Security Scams
This type of scam tends to take place over the phone. Scammers call their victims and claim that their social security number (SSN) has been compromised or suspended due to suspicious activity. They threaten the loss of benefits if the problem is not resolved. The scammer may provide a fake number or other instructions to “reactivate” their SSN and resolve the issue. The goal is to gain access to the SSN for identity theft purposes. Note that the Social Security Office will almost never call an individual, nor would they ever make legal threats over the phone.
There are various scams associated with Medicare. They typically begin with a phone call, posing as a Medicare representative. From there, different tactics may include:
- Verification of their Medicare number to bill Medicare for medical services. Credit card information may be requested as well.
- Warning their victim that their Medicare card was compromised, and they must move the money into a safer account. The goal is to gain control of the money.
- Instruction to sign up for an additional Medicare Plan (Part D) to maintain benefits.
- Requesting a fee for a new or upgraded Medicare card.
- Offering free DNA test kits or COVID-19 kits, but the Medicare number must be provided to get one.
Grandparent scams involve the impersonation of a grandchild over the phone. The scammer may find the names of a grandchild prior, or they may start the conversation by saying, “Hi Grandma! Can you guess which grandkid this is?” or something similar. These con artists tend to call at night when the victim is sleepy and confused. They will say they are in trouble and ask for financial help immediately. If a grandchild calls for help, we highly recommend hanging up and calling them back on their number to verify that it is them.
Since identity theft and fraud are only on the rise, we must do what we can to best protect ourselves and our loved ones. Being informed and aware is the best way to avoid falling victim to these scams. Other measures such as learning online safety practices, securing accounts, removing personal information from people-search sites, and implementing certain legal documents will also reduce the threat posed by scammers. For more information on how to reduce your risk of fraud, contact our Albany office today at (518) 452-6979 and schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matters.