How to Recognize and Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors

The FBI reports that is over $3 billion is lost each year to scams targeting seniors. Seniors can be devastated by these scams since they are often unable to recuperate financially.

Common Schemes Victimizing Seniors

One of the best ways to protect yourself from scammers is to be aware of common scams. Below are some examples.

Romance Scams

how to avoid scams targeting seniors

Con artists view lonely seniors looking for love as a fertile hunting ground for their next victim. Social media outlets and dating apps, in particular, make it easy to identify vulnerable baby boomers seeking romance.

Seniors should beware of people they meet online who ask for money for medical emergencies, visas or travel. In the name of love, many victims give money to scammers so they can visit. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that seniors lost about $84 million in 2019 to romance schemes.

Tech Support Fraud

The fact that seniors, in general, are easy targets for “techie” scams opens financial doors for con artists. Unsolicited pop-up messages that suddenly appear on phone screens or computers are typically scams. The messages usually claim that your computer or phone has been compromised and requires repairs. They charge for repairs and also may ask for remote access to your computer so they can obtain financial information.

Health Insurance or Medicare Imposters

Since every U.S. citizen who has reached the age of 65 is qualified for Medicare benefits, scam artists will approach those in this age group posing as Medicare officials. A common approach to bilking money out of seniors is to offer bogus services at “temporary” mobile clinics, then charge Medicare for it.

Phone Scams

Robocall technology makes it possible for criminals to contact significant numbers of people in record time to find their next victim. Seniors should be forewarned that calls about warranty expiration related to your car or electronics devices are often fraudsters trying to manipulate you into paying to renew your warranty. Another goal of theirs is to record your voice so they can use it as a voice signature to authorize future credit card charges.

The Grandparents Ruse

Seniors with big hearts and a soft spot for their grandchildren are at high risk of being victimized by one particularly nasty scam. The con artist calls the senior impersonating a grandchild. When the grandparent answers the phone, the scammer will say something like, “Hi Grandma, guess who?” The senior then answers with the name that comes to mind, thereby establishing a false identity for the scammer. Based on that fake loving connection, the scammer then asks for money to take care of some problem, often covering their tracks by begging the grandparent not to tell anyone because they don’t want to get in trouble with their parents.

Phishing Scams

Phishing text messages and emails are sent out for the purpose of obtaining personal information that can be ultimately used to steal money. These fraudsters pose as representatives from seemingly legitimate sources such as banks and credit card companies. They are likely to ask for a social security number or log-in information, explaining that they need to verify your account.

Government Imposters

Fake government representatives claiming to be from the IRS, Medicare, or Social Security Administration asking for money or information is how this scam works. These callers can be very convincing since they often appear official by showing up on a victim’s caller ID as the government agency they say they represent.

The worst of this group use scare tactics, threatening to arrest seniors who are unwilling to pay alleged taxes owed. They also threaten that Social Security or Medicare benefits will be stopped if they don’t get the information they need.

Fake Charities

Based on world events and the news, it is easy to predict some of the new scams likely to arise. Fake charities piggyback off of natural disasters and other troubling world developments to ask for money. Sophisticated criminals even set up fundraising pages on crowdsourcing sites that further legitimize them. Red flags to watch for are charities that ask for contributions in the form of money transfers or gift cards.

Tips for Avoiding Con Artists and Scammers

1. Search Google for possible scam activity.

Google phone numbers or any phrase that describes your experience to see if other people have reported the events in question. Common scams are reported on Google.

2. Never buy anything from someone who suddenly contacts you out of the blue via phone or in person.

Ask for something in writing. Never buy from a company that you are unfamiliar with or have not checked out first.

3. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry

This registry does an excellent job of blocking the majority of telemarketing scams. Remember that if an unidentified person calls after you’re on the Do Not Call Registry, then it is likely that they are a scammer. Avoid talking to them. If they ask if you can hear them, hang up.

4. Never provide sensitive information over the phone unless you initiated the call to a trusted number.

You should always keep your banking, credit card numbers, Social Security and Medicare information confidential. Be suspicious of anyone offering to sell something unsolicited that they claim Medicare will pay for since this is a common scheme.

5. Ask for direct deposit to receive benefit checks instead of a check in the mail.

Direct deposit eliminates the possibility of a stolen check.

6. Shred or lockup paperwork with your Social Security number, Medicare number, banking information, or any other sensitive personal data.

Summary

Being aware of the scams prevalent in society is a good way to avoid being victimized. Con men are trained to exploit common vulnerabilities. By taking the steps mentioned above and being aware of possible scams, seniors can avoid becoming a victim and losing money.

David Goldstein
David launched Boomer Buyer Guides with his wife Alice to provide Baby Boomers with trustworthy, well-researched information about products and services that Baby Boomers buy. Learn more about David Goldstein