There are many scammers out there who focus on the elderly. One of them called a retiree with the story they had won big money and a Mercedes. However, they quickly hung up in the wake of too many astute questions, according to the New Haven Independent in “Senior Study Scam Avoidance 101.” Unfortunately, not every senior is as savvy as this one.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost more than $900 million in 2017 – that’s $63 million dollars more than in 2016 — to fraud, and many of the victims are seniors, who are routinely targeted.
Some of the cases are debt collection fraud, where a phone caller says they are calling from the IRS or the U.S. Marshall Service, stating vehemently that the person they are calling owes money to the government. The threat of jail time is frightening to enough people, that they fall for it.
Seniors are advised over and over again: the IRS does not call to make threats, and it’s definitely not calling to demand payment in gift cards from a major retailer. However, the scammers speak with authority and are extremely convincing. As a result, many people fall into the traps.
What makes scammers more frightening, is when they use a small piece of the senior’s identity. They may read the home address and insist that they will come to their home to collect the debt. They could also mention a family member, one who has passed away lately, and claim that they know everything about the person.
Another scam is to call and say that a beloved grandchild is in prison or has been kidnapped and needs money fast to pay ransom or bail to get out of jail. If this occurs, immediately hang up and contact the person or someone who can verify their safety, to make sure they are okay.
If someone has been arrested, they have the right to make one phone call. Authorities are not likely to be calling a person’s grandparents for bail money.
Another major source of fraud comes from those who know the senior or befriends them, solely to get their money or even their home. There are tales of caregivers, who become more and more involved in a senior’s life, often pushing their family members away and isolating the individual, so they can’t ask for help. Be wary of new people who are pushy about being helpful, especially if they ask to use your credit card or debit card to run errands for you.
Sadly, there are also many instances of family members who are charged and convicted for financial elder abuse, using their relationship with aging parents or other relatives to gain access to their finances.
Reference: New Haven Independent (Feb. 5, 2019) “Senior Study Scam Avoidance 101”