Elder Financial Abuse
Learn how to avoid becoming a victim.
Recent reports have suggested older adults lose millions of dollars annually from scammers, making elder financial abuse one of the fastest growing crimes. Older consumers are frequently targeted by scammers because they believe senior citizens have significant assets and money in their accounts. And, the fact that many attacks go unreported makes this a low-risk crime, which is even more appealing to scammers. Your best defense is to be educated and aware of the many techniques used to try and take your money and personal information.
Here are a few popular scams to watch for:
No matter how technologically savvy you are, it is important to understand the scammers can still lurk in unsuspecting places. There are many ways your information can be compromised. Social media websites are a favorite tool for gathering information used for nefarious purposes. Therefore, be careful when posting information on your social media page. What you post online can be used against you and put you at risk for various scams, such as hacking into your email accounts.
This is one of the most popular ways a scammer will attack. You might receive an email that looks official, such as from a bank, business or website you frequently visit. The email may appear legitimate and claims your password, banking number and other personal identifying information are required to fix some issue. Remember that no financial institution or business should ever ask for such information through an email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the credit union or business directly. And never, ever click on any link within such an email.
If you are a senior citizen, and especially if you are a woman and living alone, you may be a target for people who sell fake products and services over the phone. Telemarketing scams usually involve offers of free gifts and prizes, low-cost vitamins, health care products and inexpensive vacations. Don’t fall for it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Fake Charities
Scammers will set up fake charities to get your money. After natural disasters, for example, scammers may call and ask for donations, appealing to your emotions.
- IRS Impersonator
A phone call from the IRS, saying you owe back taxes, is another popular attack. They usually ask for immediate payment to be made or you could face potential jail time or hefty fines. The goal here is for the scammer to get your credit card information. If you get a call like this, hang up. The IRS never demands payment, especially over the phone, without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. Nor will they contact you by email, text message or on social media to request information such as PINs, passwords, credit card, bank or other account information.
- False Tragedies
You receive a phone call from a stranger to tell you your child or grandchild, or other family member, has been in an accident at a distant location and needs medical help. Or, someone close to you has been arrested and needs bail money. In either case, the story is false and meant for you to react emotionally. In your despair, they request you to go to your bank and wire money to them to cover expenses for treatment or bail. It’s a fake story, but the loss of money to a scammer is very real.
- Funeral Plans and Cemetery Services
Scammers will review obituaries and then prey on the grieving widow or widower. They may claim the deceased left an outstanding debt and will try to get the surviving family member to settle a fake debt. Some dishonest funeral homes will add unnecessary charges to a bill. It’s best to make plans before you need the service, so you can take the time to become familiar with the costs of funeral and cemetery services.
- Medicare or Health Insurance
Age 65 is the qualifying age for Medicare. Scams can include a criminal posing as a Medicare representative calling to gather personal information from you. Or, they may try to sell you services in makeshift clinics and then use the personal information you provide to bill Medicare and collect the money.
If you are approaching retirement age, you are making plans and managing your retirement and savings accounts for when you are no longer working. Beware of investment schemes that claim to help maintain your assets during your golden years.
- Home Repair
If you have equity in your home, fraudulent companies may try to convince you that certain home repairs are needed. After making a down payment to these fake companies, you will never see that money or them again. Be sure to use reputable companies that are bonded and check with the Better Business Bureau for possible complaints.
It’s important to protect yourself from criminals that seek your information and money. Scammers will typically play on your emotions by creating a sense of importance or fear and by putting pressure on you to respond. If you are wary about a website, phone call, email, or other contact from a suspicious person, go to someone you trust for help. If you have questions about suspicious financial activity, please contact us for help. You can read more about the latest scams on our Security Center. If you think you have been a victim of a scam, report it by going to FTC.gov.