Scamming Seniors--A Billion Dollar Business
The phone rings. On the other end of the line, an unfamiliar voice exclaims, “Congratulations, you’re a winner!” It sounds too good to be true, and it is.
Every year, older adults become victims of spoofed phone calls, fake lotteries, and other fraud. When added up, scamming seniors is a billion dollar business with con artists using deceitful schemes to gain your trust and access to your hard-earned money, and in some cases your personal and financial information.
Unfortunately, the scenarios detailed below are not a complete list of fraudulent schemes because scammers have multiple communication tactics, including telephone, mail, email, social media accounts, and in-person. Knowledge is power, so watch out for these scams.
Medicare Scam. A person claims to be a representative of Medicare and requests verification of sensitive information like your social security number with a claim to reissue a new card, correct billing errors, or other bogus offers.
Grandparent Scam. The person pretends to be a family member—usually a grandchild—who claims to have a “crisis.” Then the individual will ask you to send money to help them overcome their current financial struggle. Oftentimes, the request includes a plea to not inform their parents or other family members for fear of ramifications.
Imposter Scam. The most popular variation of this scheme is a person claims to be an IRS agent who will make demands using threats of jail time if they don’t receive immediate payment. The IRS rarely calls and won’t leave urgent prerecorded messages or send emails requesting sensitive information. The IRS initiates most contact through the United States Postal Service.
If you suspect a scam, stop communication and don’t send any money! Reach out to a trusted loved one to make them aware of the situation, and file a complaint with appropriate agencies listed below, as well as local law enforcement.
• National Association of Attorneys General, to find your state’s attorney general visit www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php
• Social Security Administration www.ssa.gov/
• Federal Trade Commission www.consumer.ftc.gov
• Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org/scam-stopper
• Consumer Financial Protection Bureau www.consumerfinance.gov/
Remember, fraudsters are looking to scam you in multiple ways and often tug at your heartstrings to succeed. If the caller is pressuring you to act NOW or you’re not comfortable with what’s being communicated hang up the phone, delete the email or shut the door, etc. And, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!