Introduction To Senior Security Awareness 2
Senior Security Awareness 2. Scams targeting older adults are all too common in today’s world. Many scammers think of seniors as prime targets because of their retirement savings or because they may live alone. There are also many outdated and downright inaccurate stereotypes about older adults that make them popular targets.
But luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay ahead of the fraudsters and avoid getting scammed. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the most common scams that target older adults, so you know exactly what to look out for.
Common Fraud Tactics Used on Seniors
Senior Security Awareness 2. Con artists employ a wide variety of tactics to get older people to fall for their schemes. Below are some to be cautious of:
- Being friendly, approachable, and sympathetic so that the victim feels like the solicitor is on his or her side
- Instilling fear or giving a sense of urgency so people don’t have much time to think or act rationally
- Appearing to be helpful to gain someone’s trust and make that person feel inclined to return a favour later on.
- By emotional arousal to skew proper judgment; not long ago, researchers at Stanford found that when elderly individuals are in a state of high emotional arousal. So then, they become more interested in buying things that are falsely advertised.
- And pretending to be associated with credible companies, government agencies, or charities with fake legitimacy
- Being ambiguous about the subject or changing it throughout a conversation to distract the victim
Popular Scams Targeting the Elderly
Senior Security Awareness 2. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) lists the following scams that are most commonly targeted at seniors. Review each type below so that you can identify a potential scam. A few other kinds of scams are covered as well.
Lottery and Fake Prize Scams
Thousands of seniors are tricked into believing that they won a large sum of money but are told that they have to wire money in “taxes and fees” or to free the grand prize up from customs officials. After going through with this and receiving a check that doesn’t clear, the victim realizes that he or she has been scammed.
Unfortunately, once people fall for this scam, they are at higher risk of getting more lottery and fake-prize scam calls, emails and offers. Astonishingly, a scammer may even call the victims and claim to be a police officer or detective investigating possible lottery and fake-prize scamming. In order to investigate, the detective needs to know the victim’s financial information. On it goes. According to the U.S. Attorney General and the Solicitor General of Canada, this mass-marketing fraud takes about $1 billion a year!
Counterfeit Prescription Medications
Senior Security Awareness 2. Since many older people are on a fixed income or living off retirement funds, it’s only natural that they are often on the lookout for cheaper drug alternatives to save money. Unfortunately, scammers are fully aware of this, and they prey on seniors’ vulnerability of wanting to save. Criminals use the internet to operate these scams, offering “better prices” on prescription medications which are counterfeit and often detrimental to one’s health. Older adults should consult with their loved ones before buying any type of medication online to be extra safe.
Fake Anti-Aging Products
Senior Security Awareness 2. Speaking of counterfeits, fake anti-ageing products are another big focus of scammers who target seniors. The NCOA states that seniors often feel pressured to look younger in order to keep up in social circles or to fill a void in their lives. This results in them seeking out new treatments, medications, and products that will help them achieve “youth.” Perpetrators prey on this and capitalize on this demand. The scam can be executed in different ways, such as offering costly treatments that turn out to be either harmful or simply homoeopathic remedies that do nothing but cost money.
The “Grandparent Scam”
Senior Security Awareness 2. This scam usually entails a perpetrator calling or emailing seniors pretending to be a family member in trouble or an authoritative person representing the relative (a lawyer, for example). The “relative” then asks for money to be wired to him or her to pay rent, lawyer fees, medical bills, or some other fake expense. The victim is often asked to not tell anyone, such as other family members because the caller wants to keep the problem quiet. The older adult never hears from this “relative” again and is out of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Variations of this scheme have scammers contacting seniors through online dating sites or social media platforms such as Facebook. A senior has a legitimate profile or account and engages in correspondence with a scammer who builds trust and perhaps romantic interest. When the request for money comes after an “emergency,” the senior is all too happy to indulge. Sometimes, scammers may even pretend to be lonely U.S. soldiers serving overseas.
Con artists know that seniors may have planned for retirement for years. So, scammers take advantage of retirees by acting as financial advisors to gain access to their savings and account funds. Once they get the information they need for access, they take the money and run.
Another type of investment scheme entails the scammer taking advantage of the senior citizen’s religious affiliation or other essential parts of his or her identity. For example, for just $500, the senior citizen could invest in an illustrated Bible for children and earn part of the royalties.
Investment schemes can also be about property and timeshare deals. They often use a sense of urgency and/or the promise of free gifts. If you have only a few hours to make an investment decision and can’t call anyone about it, it’s probably a scam.
Many elderly people own their homes, which makes them an increased target for scammers. Con artists send out official-looking letters from an office such as the county assessor, and the letters claim that the homeowners can reduce their property tax burden, but only after paying a fee. The letter does not have any information that is not available to the public, so that is one giveaway of it being a scam. If homeowners believe there is any validity to a letter, they should call the county assessor’s office directly.
Homeowners who are doing a reverse mortgage are also a target of con artists, as the reverse mortgage is a sign of unlocked equity that can be taken advantage of.
Sadly, there are con artists who try to take advantage of grieving widows and widowers at funerals. Con artists keep track of obituaries to find their targets and either show up at the funeral or get the contact information of the surviving family members to say the recently deceased had outstanding debts that must be paid off.
Another funeral-related scam is the funeral house itself. People generally don’t go through funerals often and are unaware of the costs associated with one. Dishonest funeral homes tack on additional charges, so it is important to be aware of what a funeral should actually cost.
Bogus Magazine Sales
This type of scam entails young people knocking on doors to sell magazine subscriptions to “raise money” for a good cause, a school trip, or some other charity that the elderly are likely to fall for. Once the victim gives money, he or she will not receive any magazine subscriptions nor know where the money went.
IRS Impostor Scams
One of the most common scams is when someone pretends to be an IRS agent. This can happen over email, mail, phone and in person.
So-called IRS agents say that you owe taxes and demand that you pay immediately or face consequences such as jail time or hefty fines. In many cases, they say that the IRS has contacted you via mail or email already and never heard back, hence the need for dire measures now.
But in some cases, they’ll instead say you are owed a tax refund. In both scenarios, the goal is to get your credit card numbers or other financial information, and sometimes, money transfers.
If this happens via phone, hang up. If you feel the contact could be valid. call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Or the Government Tax Office where you live, to ensure you are speaking with someone legitimate. Signs of an IRS scam include:
- Arrest threats
- Rude language and behaviour
- Requests for credit card or debit card payments over the phone
- Requests to pay with gift cards or prepaid cards
- “Agents” refusing to give badge numbers and other ways to verify their legitimacy
- Demands for payments right away
Are You a Victim of a Scam?
If you think you might be a victim of a scam, reach out to someone you trust such as a close friend or family member. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone because doing nothing could make the situation worse.
Unfortunately, once money has been wired out, it is more than likely gone. However, that does not mean that there’s nothing left for you to do. Other senior victims are counting on you to report the details so that the scams can be shut down. The AARP breaks down a handy list of resources that are useful to keep readily available. Additionally, keep the phone numbers for your local police station and bank close by.
Con artists and scammers who prey on the elderly rely on two key things: The assumption that the elderly are unfamiliar with modern technology and that the elderly are unaware of all the different ways to have their personal information stolen.
This guide covers most of the scams that target seniors, but it always helps to be aware of anyone and anything trying to get money or personal information out of you.
Whenever you feel the least bit suspicious of an email, phone call, personal visit or anything else, you can try a simple Google search about your suspicion. If the search pulls up something, then you’ll know for a fact it is a scam to report and then ignore. If nothing comes up, it could be a new scam or one that hasn’t been well documented. Be safe and aware!
Important Note *
Remember that everyone is different, it is ultimately YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to find what your body responds to. So please do your due diligence before trying anything new, including getting Medical Advice to ensure your safety and peace of mind.
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