Sadly, we live in a world where scammers are a huge part of everyday life.
Even worse, they frequently prey on the elderly. Scammers have manipulated the elderly into giving them money, access to their insurance and computers, control over their bank accounts. Scammers even lie about family members in distress to force the elderly individual to give up assets. Scammers use coercion, bullying, tricking, and outright lying in order to get the elderly to relinquish their assets.
Here we’ll discuss common scams that target senior citizens, what can be done about them, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Common Scams That Target Seniors
There are a number of scams that target senior citizens. Some of the most common are:
Fake Lottery Scam
A senior gets a call saying they’ve won millions of dollars and they need to pay the administrative fees or taxes in order to receive it.
A senior gets a call or email from someone posing as law enforcement or a medical professional who claims to be reaching out on behalf of a family member in financial distress (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.). They might even be so bold as to pose as a “grandchild.”. The scammer asks for money to be wired to pay for whatever the manufactured “financial crisis” is.
Fake Virus or Ransomware
Pop-up windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost), OR the pop-ups claim that the computer has been locked and they must call a number and make a payment within a very short time or their computer will be wiped.
Tech Support Scam
Scammers who claim to be from legitimate companies demand payment for unnecessary tech support services, or to fix a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Sometimes they will even create fake websites with a number to call to receive support.
False Online Shopping Scam
Websites that seem like legitimate storefronts are set up by scammers…but they only exist to collect your payment information, or to sell stolen goods. These sites can look surprisingly real, and you may find them on social media or in a websites’ comment section.
Email messages are sent to a senior from what appears to be a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. Scammers also will use Facebook or LinkedIn to gather this information. They can then use the victim’s connections to trick the victim into thinking their contact is messaging them.
A scammer will use a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate the victim. This kind of scam occurs on dating and social media sites.
A senior gets a scary phone call saying that their name or identifying information was used in a crime such as a stolen car or illegal drug purchase.
Scammers will claim that the senior was given too much money due to an accounting mistake and demand it back.
Deals on Prescriptions Scam
Scammers offer discounted medications. They may even send a “sample drug” that could be harmful if taken.
Social Security Scam
Scammers will pretend to represent the Social Security Administration and that the senior’s COLA (cost of living adjustment) went through and they need additional money.
A senior receives a call from someone saying they are with the IRS and that they owe money from back taxes and could be sent to jail if they don’t receive payment immediately.
These are just a few of the scams that scammers have come up with to torment and terrorize these most vulnerable individuals.
Financial Abuse Is The Most Common
Of all of the scams out there, financial abuse tends to be the most common. It makes sense. After all, most scammers are after money!
One of the key problems with this is that only 1 in 44 seniors actually report the crime. This may be especially true if the senior knows or is related to the scammer. Most of these crimes are perpetrated by people that are known to the victim, not by strangers. Although, scams by strangers often happen more quickly and result in much larger financial losses.
A conservative estimate of annual losses is around $3 billion, although to many, that’s far too conservative. A 2015 study by the financial services company TrueLink put the figure at $36.5 billion, more than ten times the original “conservative estimate”.
What’s Being Done About It?
More and more, both government and financial institutions are working to stop this abuse. House Bill 2610 was passed in October 2020, by a wholly unanimous vote in both the Senate and the House. It would seem that protecting the elderly is something where political differences mean nothing. Nobody wants to think of their elderly friend, relative, neighbor or anyone else they know or care about, being tricked or coerced into financial ruin. HB 2610 brings together experts to develop educational materials for online and walk-in retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies to use to prevent the types of scams that occur in those areas.
Businesses Take Action to Stop Elderly Abuse
Moreover, many retailers are training their employees to spot this kind of situation when it is happening right in front of them. Potential victims are identified by their behaviors – generally, if they seem antsy, anxious, nervous, unusually aggressive, while doing a wire transfer or a credit card transfer, the clerk will stop and ask them a few questions to try to determine what is actually happening, and if it is, in fact, a situation where a fraud or scam is being perpetrated.
Increasingly, the companies involved in these types of situations are doing more. Transferring money via wire has become one of the biggest ways to steal from an elderly victim. Because of that, some wire transfer companies have added certain questions about the wire transfer that the customer must answer satisfactorily before the transfer can be initiated.
What You Can Do to Help Elderly Friends and Relatives Avoid Scams
It may seem like a helpless situation, but there are things you can do, too.
- Regularly call or visit your friends or relatives who are seniors and make sure everything seems all right with them.
- Be suspicious if they have a new “best friend” or something along those lines, and try to find out more about that relationship.
- Block solicitations via email or text message to their phones.
- Set up banking safeguards for their accounts so that too much cannot be withdrawn from their account.
- Educate them on what is currently happening so that they are aware of what to look out for.
With your help, your senior friend or relative won’t become a victim of scammers’ activities.
Protect Your Loved Ones with Elder Law Services from Tanko Law Office
Making sure that elderly loved ones are adequately cared for can be an exceptionally difficult task. At Tanko Law Office, we offer a variety of elder law services to help clients and their loved ones. We take a compassionate approach to helping our clients with their legal needs, and we strive to ensure that the elderly and their families are properly protected.