Scam artists target older adults with all kinds of schemes and shakedowns, but the Federal Trade Commission found that older consumers are more likely to report fraud than younger consumers are. Unfortunately, older adults reported higher losses than younger people, according to the Protecting Older Consumers 2017-18 report.
“Scammers are really well-educated and tech-savvy. They hold business meetings and operate like legitimate businesses. They track the latest police trends and equipment that are used to catch them so they can stay ahead of the police,” said senior scam expert Geoff Scott, also known as The Senior Bodyguard.
“Scam artists use two main tactics: They play on your emotions or they use intimidation,” he said.
Beware of these common scams:
SpoofingScammers are able to “spoof” a legitimate telephone number so that the caller ID shows not only a fake name but a number such as the Social Security hotline (800-772-1213) or Medicare’s (800-633-4227). Once they have you on the phone, scammers will try to intimidate you by saying you didn’t pay your taxes or you need to take action to activate a suspended Social Security number.“Know the signs. Social Security will almost never call or ask for personal information. Hang up even if they make threats,” Scott said.
Grandparent scamThis old scam still plays on the heartstrings. The phone rings in the middle of the night. You pick up, already thinking it’s an emergency. A voice on the other end says, “Grandma?” Then the scammer launches into a sob story (drunk driving, car accident) and a plea not to tell mom and dad and to send money immediately through Western Union or a Green Dot card, which later will be untraceable.
“Take five minutes to check. Get their contact details, stay calm and call a family member. Ask yourself, is this real? If it is, you’ve only lost a few minutes,” Scott said.
Lottery scamsThis one preys on people’s desire to provide for their families even if they never entered a lottery, Scott said. You get a call or email that you have won $10 million or another huge amount if you’ll only pay $20,000 in taxes. If you call back after not receiving the money, they will claim to up the winnings if you send more money.
Property line scamAn official-looking van pulls up and a person approaches you to survey the property line. You accompany him or her into the back yard, where you’re kept for a couple of minutes while another scammer enters through the unlocked front door to rob your house.
Medical device scamYou answer the phone to hear scary medical statistics and ominous music. A person comes on to tell you you’ve won a free hearing aid or other medical device, but you just have to pay $5 a month for service. They may say they’re calling from your physician, who will send you to assisted living if you don’t agree to accept the advice. Then they ask for your credit card info.
Funeral home scams“These are the scummiest,” Scott said. They read the obituaries and find out where and when a funeral is occurring, then they rob your house while the whole family is out. Beat this by hiring a house sitter during the funeral, Scott said.Another ploy is to approach a widow at the funeral and say her spouse racked up a gambling debt and she’d better pay now or he will make a scene at the funeral.