Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Seniors

Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Seniors

(United States Senate Special Committee on Aging)

Synopsis: ( It is estimated that seniors lose an estimated 2.9 Billion dollars a year to fraudulent financial schemes. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging conducted a year long study on the most prevalent of these scams. The common themes amongst all of these were:

  • Respondents were forced to make decisions fast and were often threatened.
  • Criminals can disguise their identity by spoofing email addresses and phone numbers making them appear to be from legitimate organizations.
  • The fraud usually involves a request for personal information such as; Credit Card, Social Security Number, Account Numbers etc.

The best defense against any of these frauds are:

  • Never provide any information or payment over the phone to someone that calls you unexpectedly.
  • Verify any requests for information by calling back the organization using a number that you obtained independently.
  • Ask a relative or friend about the request.
  • If you suspect that you were a victim, call law enforcement.

Top 10 Scams – What they are, How they work, and Tips for prevention

1. IRS Impersonation Scam

What It Is: Criminals generally accuse victims of owing back taxes and penalties. They then threaten retaliation, such as home foreclosure, arrest, and, in some cases, deportation if immediate payment is not made by certified check, credit card, electronic wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card.

Helpful Tips:

The IRS released the following tips to help taxpayers identify suspicious calls that may be associated with the IRS Impersonation Scam:

The IRS will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment.

The IRS will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.

The IRS will never threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.

The IRS will never require a taxpayer to use a special payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or gift cards.


2. Robo Calls and Unsolicited Phone Calls

What It Is: Robo-dialers can spoof the number from which they are calling to mask their identity. fraudsters make victims believe they are calling from the government or other legitimate entities using numbers that appear as if they are from local area codes.

Helpful Tips:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published the following tips for consumers to avoid being deceived by caller-ID spoofing:

Do not give out personal information such as your account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords, and other identifying information. Identity thieves often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors, or government agencies.

If you receive an inquiry from a company or government agency seeking personal information, do not provide it. Hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phonebook, or on the agency’s website to find out if the entity that called you needs the requested information.


3. Sweepstakes Scam

What It Is: Criminals contact victims to tell them that they have won or have been entered to win a prize. The victims are told to pay a fee to either collect their supposed winnings or improve their odds of winning the prize.

Helpful Tips:

Mentioning any of these actions must be seen as red flags:

“You must act now, or the offer will not remain”

“You’ve won a free gift, but you have to pay charges to receive”

“Asking to provide a credit card or bank account number before they have a chance to truly consider the offer”.

4. Computer Tech Support Scams

What It Is: Con artists pretending to be associated with a well-known technology company, such as Microsoft, Apple, or Dell, falsely claim that the victims’ computers have been infected with a virus. Victims are convinced to give remote access to their computers, personal information, credit card and bank account number so that you can be “billed” for fraudulent services to fix the virus. Individuals searching the internet may see a pop-up window on their computer instructing them to contact a tech-support agent. The pop-up window is used to hack into victims’ computers, lock them out, and require victims to pay a ransom to regain control of their computers.

Below are several of the most common variations of this scam:

  • Victims Unknowingly Contact Scammers. Some consumers unknowingly call a fraudulent tech support number after viewing the phone number online. Consumers who search for tech support online may see the number for the scammer at the top of their “sponsored results.”
  • Scammers Contact Victims. In the most prevalent variation of this scam, con artists randomly call potential victims and offer to clean their computers and/or sell them a long-term or technical support “service.”
  • Fraudulent Refund. Scammers contact victims stating that they are owed a refund for prior services.
  • Ransomware. Scammers use malware or spyware to infect victims’ computers with a virus or encrypt the computers so they cannot be used until a fee is paid.

Helpful Tips:

Tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help consumers avoid becoming a victim of a computer-based scam:

  • Do not give control of your computer to a third party that calls you out of the blue.
  • Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller.
  • If you want to contact tech support, look for a company’s contact information on its software package or on your receipt.
  • If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up.
  • If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly.
  • Make sure you have updated all your computer’s anti-virus software, firewalls, and popup blockers.

5. Elder Financial Abuse

What It Is: Financial exploitation of older Americans is the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s fund’s property, or assets. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, live alone, and require support with daily activities. Perpetrators include family members, paid homecare workers, those with fiduciary responsibilities (such as financial advisors or legal guardians), or strangers who defraud older adults through mail, telephone, or Internet scams.

Helpful Tips:

The GAO identified several measures that can be taken to protect seniors from guardianship abuse

Including for courts to ensure that a guardianship is truly needed before appointing one and periodically reexamining whether a guardianship is still needed. Courts should also make sure that guardians are screened for criminal backgrounds and are properly educated on their role and responsibilities.

6. Grandparent Scams

What It Is: In this scam, imposters either pretend to be the victims’ grandchild and/or claim to be holding the victims’ grandchild. The fraudsters claim that grandchild is in trouble and needs money to help with an emergency, such as getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, or leaving a foreign country.

Helpful Tips:

  • Independently identify the story.
  • Hang up and immediately call the relative who is asking for your help. Do not use the number they provide, use your own contact information that is on file.
  • Verify the whereabouts and story with another relative of the person who needs your help. (parent, sibling etc.)
  • Do not keep the situation a secret between you and the person needing assistance.
  • Do not send money that uses a special payment method, prepaid debit card or gift cards

7. Romance Scams

What It Is: Typically, scammers contact victims online either through a chatroom, dating site, social media site, or email. The con artists will ask their victims for money for a variety of things such as travel expenses, medical emergencies, hotel expenses, hospital bills or losses from a temporary financial setback.

Helpful Tips:

Tips from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to help prevent consumers from falling victim to romance scams:

  • Be cautious of individuals who claim the romance was destiny or fate, or that you are meant to be together.
  • Be cautious if an individual tells you he or she is in love with you and cannot live without you but needs you to send money to fund a visit.
  • Fraudsters typically claim to be originally from the United States (or your local region), but are currently overseas, or going overseas, for business or family matters.


8. Social Security Impersonation Scam

What It Is: This involves consumers receiving calls or emails from individuals claiming to represent the Social Security Administration (SSA). The caller generally asks for personal information such as Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and/or bank or financial account information. from SSA.

Helpful Tips:

Tips to Help Secure Your Identity:

  • Social Security will not call to ask for your bank account information or SSN.
  • There will never be a fee charged to obtain a Social Security card.
  • Social Security numbers do not get suspended.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone to someone you do not know.
  • Don’t be afraid to call SSA’s Inspector General at their toll-free number (1-800-772-1213) to verify the caller/request.

9. Impending Lawsuit Scams

What It Is: Like the IRS Impersonation or Social Security Impersonation scams, the Impending Lawsuit Scam typically involves consumers receiving calls from individuals claiming to be from local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. Consumers are told that there is a warrant out for their arrest, and unless the person agrees to pay a fine, they will be immediately arrested.

Helpful Tips:

Similar Advice as the IRS scam:

Law enforcement will never call to demand immediate payment.

Law enforcement will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.

Law enforcement will never require you to use a special payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or gift cards.

10. Identity Theft

What It Is: Identity thieves disrupt the lives of individuals by draining bank accounts, making unauthorized credit card charges, damaging credit reports; they often defraud the government and taxpayers by using stolen personal information to submit fraudulent billings to Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security benefits.

Helpful Tips:

What to Do if You Suspect You are a Victim of Identity Theft:

Visit the Federal Trade Commissions website on Identity Theft:

What to Do Right Away

Call the companies where you know the fraud occurred.

Place a fraud alert with a credit reporting agency and get your credit report from one of the three national credit bureaus.

Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

File a report with your local police department.

What to Do Next:

Closed new accounts opened in your name.

Remove bogus charges from your accounts.

Correct your credit report.

Consider adding an extended fraud freeze.