Top Scams For Seniors To Watch Out For!
Online Dating Scams
In this technological age, seniors over 50 may be lonely. And, it’s very easy to find a companion or even a friend by setting up a profile on a dating site.
Many of these sites are reputable, and fortunately, these types of scams are not as prevalent as others, but they’re definitely something seniors, especially those with considerable assets, need to be aware of in order to avoid getting taken advantage of.
Sometimes called ‘catfishing,’ a dating site scam typically begins with the scammer posing as a potential partner for a senior. They may start out texting or sending messages over the dating site. They may have a profile and photos that look legitimate and don’t necessarily raise any red flags.
However, scammers are very good at concealing the truth, and they’ve made scamming innocent seniors an art form. They could be using fake photos they’ve stolen online and created a fake profile that isn’t representing who they really are, along with using a fake name and city of residence.
Once you may have built up a relationship with this potential partner and feel like you have gotten to know them, they will then prey on your sympathy by telling you they have had a financial emergency and ask you for money, likely a large amount.
This will happen without you ever even having met or possibly even spoken to the person! Many seniors who are kind and empathetic and maybe even just a little naive and confused can easily get duped by this type of scenario.
They person may want you to wire them money, sending it via Moneygram or Western Union. They may even ask you for personal financial details like a credit card or bank account number so you can help them purchase needed items or pay bills.
However, they are really just stealing from you. Always be careful about sending anyone money that you met on a dating site; meeting a new partner shouldn’t cost you anything, unless you’re paying for a nice dinner on a first date!
Email and Bank Account Scams
Another form of what is considered elder abuse is an email scam. Email scams can come in many forms, but one of the most common ones that has been reported is a banking scheme.
You may receive an email that says it comes from your bank. It looks real, it even has a return name that says the name of your bank. It may look exactly like it’s authentic.
However, look closer. You’ll notice this email will likely say something about how they need to confirm your account information or confirm your social security number. They’ll ask you to call a number with your financial information or send a return email.
This is called ‘phishing.’ Phishing is when someone illegally tries to obtain your financial information in order to steal from you or use it in an unlawful way.
A real bank would never ask you for this information. If you’re unsure, contact your bank and discuss this with them.
Another email scam that sometimes happens is you’ll get an email from Amazon or another website that you use to purchase items. The email may say your account information has expired.
The email will ask you to respond with your credit or debit card information in order to ‘update’ your account. You may not have even ordered anything lately.
It’s wise to contact customer service to see if this is real, or go on the website’s account and find out if you are in need of an update. You should never email your financial information to anyone who sends you an email like this.
Of course, let’s not leave out the famous ‘Prince of Nigeria’ scam, which is a scam that sends you an email saying you’re about to inherit a large sum of money from a Prince in Nigeria or something else equally silly, but they need your bank information to send you the money.
Anyone that needs your bank information to send you money, unless it’s a very trusted relative, is most likely a scam.
Never give out credit card information or banking information or even your social security number over email, and if you aren’t sure about an email and you think it may look legitimate, give the business or bank a call and find out.
Grandchild Phone Scam
Your phone rings. On the other end, you hear the pleading voice of a young person, crying and begging.
This person tells you that you are their grandmother/grandfather, and they are in a financial bind. Maybe they are in jail or need money for food. Perhaps they need car repairs.
They sound very convincing, and this is a terrible way to abuse elderly people who have dementia or memory loss and become easily confused. Even if you’re not easily confused, you could still fall victim due to your empathetic and kind nature.
The stranger on the other end will try to convince you that you are a relative and that you are the only hope they have for help.
They need a large sum of money immediately. They may even sound like your grandchild and know their name.
They may even spin some terrific-sounding story about how they are in a foreign country and can’t get home, or they’ve had a terrible accident.
There may be two people involved, with the other person posing as a doctor, lawyer, or someone else of authority such as a police officer to make the scam seem realistic by verifying the story.
They’ll likely try to get you to send money via Western Union or wire it somehow, or maybe somehow send prepaid credit/money cards.
They may beg you not to tell their parents. This has been a profitable scam for many thieves who can make thousands. There are some red flags you can look for in order to avoid being taken advantage of.
Many of these ‘grandparent’ schemes are callers who will call late at night when seniors may even be awakened from sleep and unsure of what’s happening.
They’ll have a story that sounds a little too dramatic and will be someone you don’t know at all who doesn’t really appear to know you. When you pick up the phone, make sure you wait for the caller to announce his or her name before you say your own grandchild’s name.
Don’t give them any information.
Be careful: the same scheme can also happen via text message or through your social media page (Facebook, Instagram).
Always verify a story by asking this person questions only a relative would know, or calling the proper authorities yourself to back up the story. You can also call the ‘child’s’ parents to double-check the story as well.
Wow, you’ve won the lottery and you didn’t even play! That’s the focus of the next scam we will talk about.
You may get an exciting email, letter, or phone call letting you know you’ve won a large sum of money. It may seem and look completely realistic.
The only catch is, you have to pay ‘taxes’ or ‘fees’ on your winnings before you can claim your money. You’ll have to provide your banking information or debit/credit card number to pay so you can get your money.
In some of these cases, seniors have even gotten an actual check in the mail once they paid the ‘taxes!’ Of course, this makes the scam seem all the more realistic.
But what happens when you go to deposit the check in your bank account? Even though it looks completely realistic, you’ll be sad to discover it’s a fake check and it will not clear.
This scam happened in Canada, and as a result, seniors were bilked out of not just millions but billions of dollars. Don’t allow yourself to become a victim.
Obviously if you actually win the lottery, you’ll know that you’ve won, you won’t have to wait for someone to tell you, and you’ll go through the proper channels to get your reward.
You have to be careful with some scams like this because they can seem extremely realistic to the point of your caller ID even saying the name of an authentic business or lottery commission.
There are many ways to create fake phone calls, so even if it looks like it’s real, chances are, it’s a scam.
Don’t ever give anyone your banking information over the phone or via email in a situation like this. Chances are, sadly, you didn’t win the lottery, or a cruise, or a trip!
Telemarketing and Soliciting
Telemarketing scams target senior citizens, especially seniors who look like they may have substantial assets or savings.
Telemarketers may call you and try to sell you something. It may be something that sounds really great, like a brand-new vacuum cleaner for an affordable price or something you may even actually buy, like skin cream.
Some of these con artists can find out you shop online or via phone, which makes you a good target. You’ll give them your information to ‘order’ your product, then they will steal from you.
It’s also a well-known fact that seniors shop more from catalogues and online ordering than other age groups. This makes seniors more vulnerable to telemarketing and soliciting scams.
This type of scam can come in a few different forms; scammers may also come to your door selling everything from appliances to makeup to magazine subscriptions.
Some scammers may call you soliciting money for a charity, and it may be one that you’re familiar with, so you think it’s authentic and you’re giving money to help an organization you donate to.
There are even cases where people will come to your door and tell you they’re collecting donations for the homeless, for a local church, for just about any cause, or they’re raising funds for schools.
When you order something from a scam telemarketer, you may even actually receive a product, but it will probably be very cheap and could even be nonfunctional or broken.
Some of these scams may even come through the mail. You could order something and find out the company isn’t legitimate.
If you’re not sure if you’re ordering from an authentic company, it’s always best to double-check with the authorities, or simply order the goods you need from the website online.
Anyone that comes to your door, should you choose to answer, should have proper credentials, an ID, and a permit to solicit.
Are Seniors More Exposed To Financial Scams?
A scam is a way for a thief to steal money, financial, bank, or credit card information, or even your identity.
Sadly, elderly people are most often the targets of scammers and criminals.
Why are senior citizens targeted? There are a few reasons for this.
One is that many seniors are lonely and live alone, making them not only vulnerable but interested in talking to people and more likely to pick up the phone or open the door.
Seniors are also targets because many criminals know or assume that seniors have a savings account or assets they’ve accrued, so they likely have a lump sum of money sitting in their bank accounts.
Criminals that target seniors are also fairly hard to catch. Sometimes this is because the crimes may go unreported by an embarrassed or confused senior.
Other times, it’s just because a senior may have no proof that money has been extorted, so there’s no evidence for authorities to use in order to follow up on the crime, and seniors are just out their money.
And sometimes, it can be a considerable amount. Financial scams are hard to define. They’re not just one type of scam, there are numerous types.
There are investment scams, real estate scams, even funeral scams. Health insurance scams are another type of financial scam.
A fact to keep in mind is that though many of these scams are perpetrated by strangers, some are created by family members, so it’s important for seniors to be careful about who they trust with their finances, even if it’s a family member.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
Avoid companies you’re not sure of.
If someone calls you from a company to sell you something over the phone or even comes to your door, check the name of the company.
If you have never heard of them and they seem unfamiliar, never purchase from a company you don’t know. This could be a scam.
Guard your health information.
Avoid giving anyone your medical insurance, Medicaid or Medicare information, or prescription information unless it’s your doctors.
Don’t buy something from an unfamiliar company that says you can pay with your Medicare and asks for your information.
Contact a loved one or caregiver if you have been approached with an email, phone call, or letter that you aren’t sure about and let them take a look at it before you send anyone money or your financial information.
There’s nothing wrong with going on dating sites such as Match.com or Silver Singles. In fact, it’s an easy way for a lot of seniors to meet partners.
However, be very leery of anyone who asks you for money, especially if this is someone you have never met or gone out with. Never send or wire a stranger money, even if you have spoken to them numerous times.
Dating should never mean you are financially supporting a stranger. Report any suspicious activity to customer service or the Help number on the dating site.
For senior women living alone, you can be an easy target. Imagine someone comes to the door and asks for the ‘man’ of the home or calls and asks to speak to your husband.
Never present yourself as single, widowed, or unmarried. Just hang up or say he’s not there right now and close the door.
Visit www.donotcall.gov to avoid being harassed by telemarketers.
Purchase with care.
If you do want to buy something and you think it’s legitimate, ask for the salesperson’s permit, business card, phone number, and address and check it out before you buy.
Avoid ‘home repair’ scams.
Some scammers come to your home under the claim that they’ll do home repair for you for a low cost. They may even have tools with them.
They could tell you they’ve done work for your neighbors. They could point out “problems” they see with your home that they could fix for you.
However, this could be a scam, and it’s a common one. They can end up doing a fake ‘repair’ and taking your money.
Always use reputable repair people that you have vetted or have been recommended to you. Always follow up with references, too, before you hire someone.
You can always check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure companies are legitimate, too.
What to Do If You Get Scammed
Don’t be afraid to call the police! Many of these scammers get away with these crimes because elderly people do not report them. Don’t let a criminal get away with scamming you out of your money.
Tell someone! Talk to your family, caregiver, or friends about what happened to you or if you simply have suspicions that you’re being scammed.
Even if you feel embarrassed, don’t be. It happens to all of us from time to time. The criminals should be embarrassed, not you.
People you trust can help you figure out what to do to nip the situation in the bud or get the right authorities involved.
Keep a list of phone numbers where you can access them easily. This includes the police, your bank, your health insurance, etc. if you need to ask questions about something that sounds kind of shady, or you need to put a stop payment on a check.
If the phone rings and you don’t recognize the number, simply don’t pick it up. Let the caller leave a message, and if you know them, you can always call back later.
Look for things in emails that don’t look right, such as misspelled words or a fishy return email address. Always double-check even if they look real, such as an email from your bank.
Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone or shut the door, ever.
If it looks like ‘junk mail,’ then it probably is. Throw it away.
Frequently Asked Questions About Scams
What if a phone number comes up as my bank or a real company?
This is possible because criminals have the know-how to make it look like these calls are authentic. This is called “caller ID spoofing.”
If you aren’t sure about a call, say, from your bank, tell them you’ll call them right back and call your bank.
Then, you’ll know if the call is real.
What if I think my nurse is stealing from me and I am home alone?
Sadly, this is a situation that happens sometimes, as a home caregiver may try to steal from a senior citizen.
If you think your caregiver may be stealing from you, see if you can get a friend or family member to come over when the caregiver stops by to see if he or she can monitor the situation or get to the bottom of it.
Or, call the police if you’re afraid because you are alone.
How can I protect myself online?
Always check that a site is encrypted before you enter your financial information (check for the little padlock in the browser URL window). Use different passwords for every site you shop on, and don’t give them out to anyone or tell anyone your passwords.
If you ever use a public computer, such as at the library or senior center, always log out of your account when you are finished.
How can I protect myself over the phone?
For instance, to protect yourself from the grandparent scam, you could have a few different questions you discuss with your family that only you would have the answers to.
If this person claiming to be a relative in need of money doesn’t know the questions/answers, then they are not a relative.
How do I keep up with what’s happening with my financial information?
A great way to keep up with your financials is to sign up with an authentic credit site such as Credit Karma.
When something suspicious comes up on your credit, they will let you know. You can also check your credit yourself to ensure everything looks all right. It’s free to use and to check your credit.