Scam • March 16, 2023 ∙ 9 min read ∙ View 302

Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors and How to Avoid Them

Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors and How to Avoid Them

As people age, they may become more vulnerable to scams due to social isolation, cognitive decline, and declining financial resources.

Scammers often target seniors because they perceive them as more trusting and less likely to report fraud.

According to a Federal Trade Commission report, Americans over 60 reported losing $1.9 billion to scams in 2019 alone.

In this article, we will discuss the top 10 scams targeting seniors in the United States and provide tips on how to avoid them.

1. Social Security Scams

Scammers may call or email seniors pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, claiming their Social Security number has been compromised, or their benefits will be cut off if they don’t provide personal information.

The Social Security Administration will never call or email to ask for personal information. If you receive a call or email like this, do not provide personal information and hang up or cancel the email.

In 2020, the Social Security Administration received more than 718,000 reports of fraud, with seniors being the primary victims.

This type of scam involved a caller claiming to be from the Social Security Administration and telling the senior that their benefits would be cut off unless they provided their Social Security number and other personal information.

The scammer used this information to open credit cards and make purchases in the senior’s name.

2. Grandparent Scams

Scammers may call seniors pretending to be a grandchild or relative in distress, asking for money to be wired immediately. They may claim to be in jail, in the hospital, or stranded in a foreign country.

The best way to avoid this scam is to confirm the person’s identity by asking personal questions that only the real grandchild or relative would know.

In 2019, an 80-year-old man from Georgia fell victim to a grandparent scam.

A caller claiming to be his grandson said he had been in a car accident in Mexico and needed $10,000 to pay for damages and medical bills.

The man wired the money to a bank in Mexico, only to find out later that his grandson had never left the country and was safe at home.

A man named Medard Ulysse from Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud for multiple fraud schemes, including an elder “grandparent” scam and a COVID-19 CARES Act Fraud scheme.

Ulysse and his co-conspirators submitted at least 143 fraudulent unemployment applications in the names of identity theft victims and scammed at least 83 elderly victims across the United States.

Ulysse was sentenced to a minimum of 48 months in federal prison.

3. Sweepstakes Scams

Scammers may send letters or make phone calls claiming that the senior has won a large sum of money or a luxury car, but they must pay a fee to claim the prize.

In reality, legitimate sweepstakes do not require payment to claim a prize.

If you receive a call or letter like this, do not provide personal information or send money.

In 2018, a 75-year-old woman from California received a letter claiming she had won $2.5 million in sweepstakes.

The letter instructed her to send a $25,000 check to cover taxes and processing fees to claim the prize.

The woman sent the cheque but never received the promised reward.

4. Tech Support Scams

The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network received over 143,000 reports about tech support scams in 2018 alone.

Scammers may call or send pop-up messages claiming to be from a well-known tech company like Microsoft or Apple, saying that there is a problem with the senior’s computer or device.

Copyright@FTC

Tech support scams are causing disproportionate harm to older adults, who are more likely to report losing money to these scams compared to younger people.

According to Sentinel data, people 60 and over are about five times more likely to report losing money to tech support scams than younger people.

Over the past four years, older adults filed more reports of a loss on tech support scams than in any other fraud category.

The reported median individual loss to tech support scams for older adults was $500 last year, 25% higher than the median individual loss reported by younger people.

They may ask for remote computer access or payment to fix the problem. In reality, tech companies will never contact customers in this manner.

If you receive a call or pop-up like this, do not provide personal information and hang up or close the pop-up.

In 2020, a 70-year-old woman from Illinois received a pop-up message on her computer claiming that her system had been hacked and instructing her to call a toll-free number for tech support.

The scammer on the other end of the line convinced her to allow remote access to her computer and then installed malware that allowed him to steal her personal information and banking details.

5. Investment Scams

Scammers may offer seniors a high-return investment opportunity with low risk.

They may use high-pressure sales tactics to convince the senior to invest quickly without providing any documentation or detailed information about the investment.

Before investing, research the company and the investment opportunity, and be wary of unsolicited investment offers.

In 2019, a 76-year-old man from Florida fell victim to an investment scam.

A salesperson convinced him to invest $100,000 in a company that promised high returns.

The man never received any returns and later discovered that the company was a fraud.

In the same year, a senior in Florida invested $600,000 in a company that promised high returns on investments in cryptocurrency.

The company became a scam, and the old lost all her money.

6. Charity Scams

Scammers may call or email seniors claiming to be from a well-known charity, asking for donations.

They may use high-pressure sales tactics or provide a fake website to make the senior believe they are donating to a legitimate charity.

Before donating to a charity, constantly research the organization and make sure they are legitimate.

In 2020, scammers created a fake charity called the “Coronavirus Prevention Foundation” and emailed seniors asking for donations to help fight the pandemic.

The email contained a link to a fake website where seniors could enter their personal information and donate money.

The scammers used this information to steal the seniors’ identities and make fraudulent purchases.

7. Medicare Scams

Scammers may call or email seniors claiming to be from Medicare, offering free services or equipment in exchange for personal information.

They may also ask for payment for services or equipment that Medicare covers for free.

Medicare will never call or email to ask for personal information or payment.

If you receive a call or email like this, do not provide personal information and hang up or cancel the email.

In 2019, scammers called seniors claiming to be from Medicare and offering them free genetic testing.

The scammer asked for the senior’s Medicare number and other personal information, which was then used for billing Medicare for fraudulent services.

8. Romance Scams

Scammers may create fake profiles on dating websites or social media, posing as a romantic interest.

They may gain the senior’s trust and then ask for money for various reasons, such as a medical emergency or a plane ticket to visit the senior.

Before sending money to someone online, always verify their identity and be wary of anyone who asks for money early in the relationship.

In 2020, a senior in Michigan met someone on a dating website which claimed to be a soldier stationed overseas.

The person gained the senior’s trust and asked for money to cover various expenses. The senior wired over $30,000 to the scammer before realizing it was a fake relationship.

9. Identity Theft Scams

Scammers may steal a senior’s personal information through various means, such as phishing emails, hacking, or stealing mail.

They may use this information to open credit cards or bank accounts in the senior’s name or to make fraudulent purchases.

To avoid identity theft, seniors should always shred sensitive documents, monitor their credit reports regularly, and be wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls asking for personal information.

If they suspect their identity has been stolen, they should report it to the authorities immediately.

In 2020, a senior in Texas received a phishing email that looked like it was from her bank, asking for her account information.

The senior provided the information and later found out that her identity had been stolen and used to open credit cards and make fraudulent purchases.

10. Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Scams

Scammers may offer fake COVID-19 vaccination services to seniors, asking for personal information and payment in exchange for the vaccine. They may also provide early access to or claim a particular or more effective vaccine.

To avoid this scam, seniors should only receive the vaccine from a legitimate healthcare provider or government agency. They should never provide personal information or payment for the vaccine.

Fake COVID-19 vaccination scams have also been reported in the United States. One example is a scam in New York City where scammers posed as nurses offering at-home vaccination services.

They would charge seniors for the vaccine and never return to provide the shot. Another example is a scam in Texas where scammers created fake vaccination cards to sell online, claiming they had received the vaccine.

These fake vaccination cards were sold for hundreds of dollars, preying on people’s desire to get vaccinated quickly.

In addition, scammers have been known to create fake websites and send out phishing emails offering early access to the vaccine or a vaccine that is more effective.

These websites and emails often ask for personal information and payment in exchange for the vaccine, but in reality, they are just scams to steal personal and financial information.

It is important to note that the COVID-19 vaccine is only available through legitimate healthcare providers and government agencies.

Seniors should never provide personal information or payment for the vaccine through unsolicited emails, phone calls, or websites.

If they suspect a vaccination service is fake or fraudulent, they should report it to the authorities immediately.

In conclusion, scammers often target seniors due to their perceived vulnerability and trusting nature. Seniors must be aware of these scams and take steps to protect themselves.

Some general tips include never providing personal information or payment to unsolicited phone calls, emails, or texts, researching companies and individuals before hiring or donating money, and being wary of high-pressure sales tactics.

By staying informed and vigilant, seniors can avoid these scams and protect their financial and personal well-being.

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Bigscam.org offers resources and tips to help individuals protect themselves from scams and fraud. It provides information on spotting and avoiding common scams and what to do if you fall victim to a scam.

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