Did you know that over 5 million older Americans are financially exploited every year at a cost of over $36.5 billion a year according to Bloomberg? The problem has reached epic proportions especially as Baby Boomers reach their senior years.
Eight Ways Fraudsters are Targeting Older Adults are:
1. Identity Theft- Scammers get your personal information and use it to open credit card accounts and run up bills in your name.
2. Imposter Scam - The fraudster pretends to be a government agency, legitimate company, or someone you love in need and calls or emails you requesting that money be wired or mailed to them.
a. Mortgage Scam - Con artists send out official-looking letters from an office such as the tax accessors claiming back taxes. They request that money be wired or banking information be provided.
b. Tech Support Scams - The scammer calls and says he is a computer technician and says that your computer has been infected by viruses or malware and that he needs you to give him your passwords so he can have remote access to your computer to fix it.
c. Grandkid Scams - Scammers will telephone a senior pretending to be a grandchild who has been in an accident or is in legal trouble needing money immediately.
d. IRS Imposter Scams - Fraudsters will call pretending to be an IRS agent saying that you owe back taxes and threatening to sue or arrest you if you don’t pay right away.
e. Online Dating Scams - The scammer joins an online dating website and professes their love to a senior and asks for money via credit cards, wires, or checks.
3. Phishing Emails - Scammers send emails which look just like those from legitimate companies requesting that their banking or credit card information be updated or confirmed. The senior provides the information which allows the scammer access to his accounts or to install malware allowing access to information on his or her computer.
4. Charity Fraud - The scammer contacts you asking for a donation for their charity. They normally pressure you to donate immediately by check, cash or wire. Sometimes, they send you a link to donate which looks like the legitimate charity, but the site or link is slightly different.
5. Health Care Scams - Scammers impersonate a representative from a health insurance company or Medicare asking for your personal information to issue a new Medicare card or offer discounts. They then can steal your identity and use the information to bill Medicare for fraudulent services.
6. Home Improvement Scams - Someone contacts you and says he has noticed your home needs repairs or that he is working in the neighborhood. He pressures you to hire him and asks for payment up front in cash. He then disappears with your money and never makes the repair.
7. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams - This scheme involves notifying the senior that they have won a prize, but that he or she has to pay a fee or taxes on the prize to obtain it. They ask the senior to give them their credit card number or bank account information or request a wire while the prize is never sent.
8. Purchase of Prescription Drugs or Anti-Aging Products - Scammers realize that seniors often have high prescription drug costs and that many are looking for products to slow down the aging process. Many scammers advertise these prescription drugs or anti-aging products via the internet at substantially lower costs. When seniors buy these products, they can actually be counterfeit, worthless, or harmful.
8 Important Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself from Fraud:
- “Freeze your credit” or “place a fraud alert” with each of the main credit reporting companies- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Review your credit report each year for any unusual or fraudulent items. The law entitles you to one free each year from each credit reporting company. You can request a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
- Shred all documents with your personal information on it.
- Use an online account password manager like Dashlane or Lastpass to keep your online passwords secure.
- Never release your personal information like Social Security Number, banking information, or credit card to a phone solicitor. Government agencies will not call you asking for such information nor threaten you for non-payment.
- Never open emails from companies or persons that you do not know and never fill in personal information requested in an unsolicited email.
- Reduce the amount of unwanted solicitations mailed to your home that could be stolen by thieves and used to open credit card accounts by opting out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance, call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com.
- Reduce the amount of direct mail you receive by visiting DMAchoice.org and paying $2 to select amount and type of direct marketing you will receive for 10 years.
A great resource when researching scams and how to prevent them is https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.
Written by Lolly (Laura) Ward, CPA, owner of LMW Personal Financial Services. She is a daily money manager who works with seniors and their adult children to manage their daily financial matters. She is a member of the AADMM (American Association of Daily Money Managers) and has been a CPA for over 25 years. You can learn more about what she does and how she might be of service to you at www.lmwpersonalfinancialservices.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-388-75811.