“Grandma? Can you hear me?” This may be something our senior loved ones may start hearing more often. Adults 60 years and older are being targeted by scams through phone calls, emails and snail mail making it harder to watch out for your loved ones.
So why are seniors likely to be scammed more than any other generation? Many say it is because the older generation comes from a time where people were more trustworthy. Others may not want family members, caretakers, and loved ones to know they are facing financial trouble. A study done by UCLA stated older adults have less activity in the area of their brain which determines risk and wary situations than the younger adults. Seniors are more apt to trust strangers in risky situations because they can’t pick up on several social cues that could be a warning sign. This may result in them being exploited financially.
$36 billion is stolen every year from senior citizens in our country. This is an astronomical amount. How can we protect our seniors from falling victim to more scams? Scam prevention is best accomplished by being aware of how seniors are being targeted, keeping an eye on your loved ones, and talking to them about common financial scams.
Types of Scams
The common types of scam are:
- Grandchild Scam – Grandparents are always looking for a reason to speak with their grandchildren. Sometimes, the person on the other end of the phone isn’t a grandchild, but a scammer who has done plenty of research. The call typically starts out with the “grandchild” asking the grandparent how they are doing and mentioning they are in a bit of financial trouble and are too scared to ask their parents for help. The grandparent, not wanting to see the “grandchild” suffer, often send the scammer money without knowing. One out of 50 elderly adults falls for this scheme because they become overwhelmed with emotion and love of wanting to help their family.
- IRS Scam – Many scammers impersonate an IRS officer. They demand personal information and oftentimes will coerce the senior citizen on the phone to pay a fine. Two red flags about these calls are the IRS will hardly ever call. Most of the time, their first point of contact will be by mail and they will not ‘threaten’ you to pay a fine. The IRS website states “…These aggressive phone calls that can be frightening and intimidating. The IRS doesn’t do business like that. We urge seniors to safeguard their personal information at all times. Don’t let the convincing tone of these scam calls lead you to provide personal or credit card information, potentially losing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Just hang up and avoid becoming a victim to these criminals.”
- Jury Duty Scam – Criminals may call and pretend to be a local government member. The scammers will call and inform you that since you missed jury duty, you will be placed under arrest in the near future. They will ask you to prove your identity with a social security number which a local government worker would never do. Nor would they call on an unsolicited phone number. Remember, like the IRS, jury notices of any kind are hardly given by a phone call.
- Lottery Scam – Many senior citizens may be struggling with money. When they see an email stating they have won a few thousand dollars, elders get excited. Sadly, the money is often not apart of this deal. The scammers will ask for information about their bank, supposedly to transfer the money into a bank account. What happens is now is the scammers have attained crucial banking information, possibly draining the account of what little was in there instead of depositing money, as the email claimed.
- Software Scams – The older generation is not very tech savvy. So, when a senior receives a call or email claiming there is an issue with their computer, most likely, they won’t know any better than to accept the help of a stranger. Some software scams will include the stranger saying they need remote access to a computer. Once the criminals have remote access, they will “fix” the problem and also install malware onto the computer, allowing them to steal any precious information saved onto the computer.
Phishing and scamming often happen with seniors because of money and their other assets. Older people are getting online more and more and these criminals know they are. Make sure you are keeping tabs on your loved one’s financial activity so you are aware of their situation and have the ability to see if anything fishy pops up. Chances are if it is too good to be true, it is. Don’t fall for it. Make sure to throw away any junk mail, physical or digital, which might come across your loved one. Warn them to only answer phone calls from people they know or numbers they recognize.
Recommending a tool to help prevent seniors from being scammed is another great way to steer clear of scammers. Tools such as LifeLock can help you feel at ease that your loved one is protected. The services will monitor a person’s financial and personal information as well as provide real-time credit monitoring, public records and much more. This way, if your loved one falls into the snare of a scammer, the process of restoring their records will be much less of a hassle.
Talk to your older loved ones (and clients, if you’re a caregiver) about the different types of scams and how to avoid them. It’s extremely important they know to be on the alert for potential scams and the signs of that certain situations may not be everything they are hearing or reading. It is so important for family members, caregivers, and friends of the older generation to remain up to date about different scams to protect the seniors they care about so much.
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