The Most Common Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them!
It may be surprising, but recent data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that Seniors are targeted by scammers at a lower rate than the average, while the median loss is much greater when successful. Seniors can be easy prey having known disposable income from benefits, assets accumulated over a lifetime and retirement savings and may be vulnerable due to health issues or social isolation. Here are just some of the approaches that scammers take to take advantage of you.
- Posing as an IRS Agent – Scammers love this one as it puts the fear of God in all who receive the call. The pitch is that you have a federal warrant out for your arrest for not paying taxes. The IRS will always notify you by mail and will never threaten you over the phone. Hang up promptly and report the number to your mobile provider as a scam.
- Scam artist call posing as a grandchild or family member – It goes something like this. I was on Spring break or at an event and got arrested for drunk driving or hitting a pedestrian. These can be quite convincing as scammers are adept at gleaning personal information from your child’s or grandchild’s social media accounts. The ask is for bail money so do not under any circumstances send money or give out banking information. Instead, hang up and reach out to your loved one to ensure that nothing has gone awry.
- Medicare related scam – The poser will pretend they are calling from a medical testing company to review concerning results regarding a cancer diagnosis or some such scary disease to get your attention! They claim that you will need a DNA swab test which is covered by Medicare and ask for your Medicare number in order to ship you the needed test kit. Never give out your Medicare number to an unsolicited caller. Scammers love to make money billing Medicare for unnecessary tests that your doctor never ordered. Hang up immediately and check in with your doctor’s office if you are concerned and want to ensure that you don’t need such a test.
- Computer or phone related scam – A company such as mobile phone provider or computer hardware company claiming there is a problem with your computer or mobile phone. They typically tell you to download a program to fix the issue when in fact they will send malware for you to download instead. This gives them the keys to remotely access your data and all of your personal information stored on your device. Never give anybody remote access to your computer or phone. If in doubt, contact your mobile phone company or customer service desk for your computer provider. They will be able to lookup your account and ensure there is no issue that needs to be resolved.
- Order information scam – Somebody reaches out from an account where you typically do your on-line shopping like Amazon or Walmart posing as security. The pitch is that somebody has ordered a large ticket item on your account, and they are here to verify the purchase. Of course, it was not you, so they proceed to offer to help with the refund which requires your account information. Now, armed with your information, they can make purchases on your account! Never give out your account information to an inbound caller! Instead, reach out to the company yourself and alert them to what has transpired. They can check your account for you and ensure all is well.
- Utility Company scam – A call comes in from a scammer claiming to work for your utility company. They will know which one it is as they likely know where you live, making this somewhat believable. They are informing you that you have missed payments and are about to shut off your service. This can be particularly disturbing during the middle of Winter or a hot Summer! They offer immediate resolution by taking a payment over the phone, how helpful! Never make a payment to anybody that calls you or reaches out online. If you use online bill pay or phone payments they should be transactions generated by you, not to someone reaching out to you. Any utility company will send you notifications of such missed payments via your monthly billing statements which contain the legit numbers to reach their customer service line.
- Social Security scam – Last but not least, the caller will tell you that your social security account will be frozen or is frozen due to nefarious activity on your account. They are likely fishing to try and gain your social security number and personal information in order to scam your benefits. Never fall for any call regarding your social security account and benefits. The Social Security Administration will reach out to you via mail if there is a problem, or you can find them online to inquire about your account.
The bottom line with most scams is that they contact you and draw you in with helpful sounding banter. The best and safest way to handle potential scammers is to always hang up and find the contact information for the company or agency that supposedly called and reach out to them yourself. Block and report the phone number to your mobile phone provider to ensure they cannot call you again. It pays to be safe rather than sorry as it can be painful and costly to get hooked by a scammer. Remember, always talk to somebody about this activity whether it’s a trusted friend or a loved one. There is nothing to be ashamed of, it can happen to anybody at any age. Scammers know that some seniors may be more vulnerable due to health issues, isolation or inexperience dealing with online scammers.