Fraudsters steal approximately $3 billion from seniors each year through fraud and scams. Learn more about how to avoid fraud and stay safe.
Why do scammers target older adults? Older adults tend to be more confident and likely to answer the phone. Identity thieves target older adults because they generally have more financial resources and assets, allowing them to get good credit scores.
What should people know about social engineering? Social engineering is the art of manipulating people into sharing their sensitive information, such as passwords and bank account numbers. Scammers try to gain the trust of their victims in order to persuade them to get their information.
When it comes to making a quick buck, scammers don’t care who the victim is. Here are some common scams targeting seniors and helpful tips to avoid them.
What is one of the most popular scams? In the “Grandparent Scam”, someone obtains the name of one of her grandchildren by searching online. They call her on the phone posing as her grandson and ask for money to fix a flat tire in Canada. They tell you that they are sorry to call their parents or their friends. Then they ask for $500. The signs of fraud are present: urgency and international borders. If you send money outside of the United States, it is almost impossible to get it back.
What tips to use to avoid scams? Hang up if something sounds wired or doesn’t feel right to you. If the caller gives you the name of a company, look it up online. You may be able to find information about the scam from other people who received calls.
Also, don’t feel pressured to respond immediately with any offer. If someone calls you, emails you, or sends you an offer by mail, decline the invitation and verify that the information and the company are true. Neither health plans nor annuities have special sales.
Also, never give or send your personal information, money, jewelry, or gift cards. Keep the antivirus program on your computer up to date. If a suspicious person starts knocking on doors to sell something, tell your elderly neighbors so they can avoid the scammer.
Then, regarding the insurance premium theft scam, be aware that some dishonest insurance agents will ask you to pay the premium fee directly to them to keep the money. Sometimes they make a payment to the insurance company so that you get the policy by mail. But then, they stop sending payments, and the insurance company will cancel your policy. You might not realize it until it’s time to file a claim.
When it comes to how to avoid it, always pay the company directly and not the agent. Do not make cash payments. You can track and verify check and credit card payments, you can’t do this with cash. If you have to pay with cash, get a receipt. If you receive a cancellation notice in the mail, call the company – not the agent – and ask why they canceled your policy.
Then, regarding the savings theft scam, some people buy annuities to create their retirement income. If you buy an annuity, be careful when moving your money around. A rogue agent might set up a bank account and ask you to deposit money into that account, and then fail to move the money to the annuity.
To avoid it, understand that annuities don’t work for everyone. Consider your needs carefully and talk to a financial advisor before purchasing one. When you meet with the agent and make your annuity purchase, go with someone you trust. After purchasing an annuity, you have 20 days to cancel the purchase if you decide it won’t work for you.
Other useful tips to avoid scams are:
- Beware of unexpected calls. If you didn’t call the person first, the sales representative probably found your information on a mailing list.
- Don’t shop over the phone. Fraud risk is greater over the phone or online.
- Don’t make hasty decisions. Be wary of “last chance deals” or other situations where you have to make decisions quickly. Take your time. It’s also a good idea to talk to your family or a financial adviser before making a purchase.
- Beware of scammers. Be careful with people who tell you they work for Medicare, Social Security, or any other government agency.