We have all heard it before: Seniors are prime targets for scammers.
Many fraudsters think seniors are less technologically savvy, more trusting, cognitively susceptible, and less likely to question suspicious tactics. The Federal Trade Commission reported a sharp increase among adults aged 60 and older who have reported online shopping fraud, money lost to romance, and tech support scams.
Four Types of Scams that Frequently Target Seniors
♦ Government Imposter Scams.
One of the most prolific deceptions affecting seniors is when a scammer calls, texts, or emails claiming to be from a government agency, such as Medicare, the Social Security Administration, or the Internal Revenue Service. As with many scams, the perpetrator will use scare tactics, saying failure to provide the requested information will cause the loss of benefits or even arrest. Scammers usually express some urgency to provide payment or information immediately. Remember, legitimate government agencies will never call, email, or text to ask for money or personal information. They will never request payment via wire, cash, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
♦ Phone Scams and Robocalls.
A common automated call ploy is when the scammer calls and asks, “Can you hear me?” or “Are you there?” When you answer “yes,” the scammer may be recording your voice as a voice signature to authorize unwanted charges or subscriptions. At a minimum, you have just let them know your phone number is active with someone who will answer, and they then sell that information to other telemarketers. Don’t be afraid to hang up on any call that seems suspicious. The more time you spend on the phone with a scammer, the more likely you will get more nuisance calls.
♦ Computer Tech Support Scams.
This type of scam often comes as a pop-up message in the web browser of your phone or computer, stating that the device is damaged, threats are detected, or there is suspicious activity. Text messages with this warning are also increasingly common. There is usually a link to click or a phone number to call. Do not call the number and do not click the link; the latter could trigger the installation of harmful software, exposing your personal information. If you think there is a problem with your computer or phone, make sure you have fully updated your operating system and virus protectors. If that does not solve the problem, reach out to a reputable company for tech support.
♦ Covid-19 Scams.
Scammers have used the pandemic as an opportunity to target Medicare recipients and offer Covid-19 tests, vaccines, or treatment in an attempt to steal personal information. Medicare will pay for Covid-19 tests, but will never call or email you to offer a “free Covid test” or equipment. Use a reputable pharmacy or the Texas Department of State Health Services website to locate a legitimate testing location.
Strategies to Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Scam
Remember: No legitimate government agency or business will initiate contact with you to ask you for personal information or payment by gift card, wire transfer, or cash.
Stay diligent. Don’t be afraid to ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion about a suspicious email or call. Trust your instincts. If a call or email doesn’t seem right, there’s a good chance it is a scam.
What to Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Scammed
If someone you care about has fallen victim to a scam, withhold judgment. The last thing someone wants to hear when they realize they’ve been taken advantage of is how stupid they were for falling for it. This will also discourage them from coming to you for help the next time they are targeted.
If you or someone you care about has been the victim of financial fraud, report this and seek assistance from the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311) and or file a consumer complaint online at the Texas Attorney General’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.