Scams have been rampant since the invention of the telephone, and the complexity and frequency of scams have increased since the introduction of the internet. As phones and devices get more advanced, criminals and their scams have become increasingly nefarious. The best way to avoid financial scams is to be able to easily identify a scam when it crosses your path. Follow along to learn about the most common types of senior scams.
What is a Financial Scam?
A financial scam is where a criminal will scam a person out of their money via phone or online. Generally, criminals and scammers will pretend to know a person they are trying to scam. Sometimes these criminals will also impersonate a loved one when trying to scam a potential victim.
Unfortunately, criminals are always becoming increasingly insidious in their methods of scams. With more and more technology entering everyone’s lives in the last couple of decades, scammers have more avenues and methods than ever before. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) people over 70 years old report losing hundreds or thousands of dollars¹ to scams.
With knowledge comes power, and having the ability to discern potential scams can save you time and money. Here are some of the most common scams that criminals use on seniors.
1. AARP Scams On Seniors
Posing as trusted officials, criminals will pose as AARP employees to get sensitive personal and financial information from scam victims. Other times, scammers will pose as employees of the social security administration and offer scam victims special discounts on their medicare. AARP offers its members links to scam alerts, a fraud hotline, and a fraud resource center².
2. Money Zip Scam
A money zip scam is when a criminal takes a person’s money and tells them that their product is on the way. In some cases, the criminal will even provide a tracking number for a package that was shipped to somebody else in your zip code, making it appear as if your product is on its way when it isn’t.
3. Senior Benefits Call
Senior benefits call scams generally involve a scammer contacting a senior and informing them that they need a new Medicare or other insurance cards. The criminal will generally play on a senior’s fear of losing benefits or coverage to extract important financial information from their scam victims.
4. Elder Fraud Abuse
In these types of scams, there can be a lot of varying factors. In some cases, scammers might tell you that you have won a prize and that they need your personal information for you to receive it. In general, elder fraud abuse scammers will try to impersonate someone you know or someone that knows you. Be wary and make sure to always verify who it is you’re speaking to, whether it is online or over the phone.
5. Romance Scams
In romance scams, a criminal will pose as a person that is romantically interested in you. These types of scammers will scam a person by pretending to care for a person and capitalizing on a person’s want for a romantic partnership.
6. Grandparent Scam
Grandparent scams involve a criminal posing as a child or a grandchild and tricking an unsuspecting senior into sending them money or providing sensitive financial information to the scammer. In grandparent scams, often the criminal will not state a name but instead have you guess who it is, and they will then play along with that identity.
7. Tech Support Scam
Tech support scams are rampant amongst seniors. These criminals capitalize heavily on the fact that most seniors are not as technically savvy as younger generations. In this circumstance of scamming, the criminal will inform you of a technical problem, and they will direct you to give them access to your computer. Once in, they will compromise and take sensitive information such as PINs, passwords, banking information, and more.
What To Do if Your Elderly Parent is Being Scammed?
The best avenue to protect yourself or a loved one from being scammed is to make sure that everyone is well informed about scams and can easily recognize when you are faced with one. In general, it’s a good idea to always be wary, make sure you know who you are talking to online and over the phone, and always search the person’s information and offers online. Chances are, this scammer uses the same methods to scam others, and people will often report scams to the FBI or post about them online. In addition, make sure that any applicable security software or malware protections are installed and up to date.
Who To Contact if You’ve Been Scammed?
Reporting a scam to the FBI will be the most important plan of action after realizing that you have been scammed. While this hopefully never happens, FBI scam reporting is the best way to ensure that it is documented, and gives officials helpful information in attempting to catch and imprison criminals behind these scams.
When you go to report a scammer to the FBI remember to include as many of these important details as possible:
- Names and company names
- Dates of contact
- Method(s) of communication from the scammer
- Contact information such as phone numbers, emails, or websites
- Methods of payments
In addition to these details, it’s important to provide as many details in your report as possible, regardless of their perceived importance.
Hopefully, you or your loved ones will never have to deal with a scam or the criminals behind them. However, it’s important to remain vigilant and be wary of who you are speaking to online and over the phone. Being aware of the newest scams is a great way to ensure you’re up to date, and being aware of common elderly scams will help you to be able to determine if you are being targeted by a scammer.
¹DeNicola, N. (20 April 2022) Top Ten Scams Targeting Seniors. Experian. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
²AARP Fights Fraud Targeting Older Americans. AARP. Retrieved 12 June 2022.