At Grand Villa, we like to keep our assisted living residents informed about financial scams that may attempt to target them to help facilitate their financial well-being in addition to their physical and mental health.
Chances are you’re close to someone who’s been financially scammed or had their identity stolen through some form of fraudulent scheme. Statistics gathered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report that financial crimes among older adults are becoming an increasingly common issue. According to Consumer Affairs, more than 3.5 million older adults are scammed out of a grand total of $3 billion annually — an average individual loss of $34,200.
Studies show adults aged 65+ are more victimized by fraudsters. As you enter 2022, it’s important to be aware of what types of schemes are targeting older adults and what preventative actions you can take to recognize and report them. Here’s an in-depth look at some common scams and how they carry out their criminal purposes.
While romance scams are the leading cause of fraudulent theft across all age groups, they’ve been found to affect older adults more than any other age bracket. Of the total $304 million in reported losses in 2020 alone, $139 million was scammed out of individuals above the age of 60. These numbers are a sharp increase from their $84 million in reported losses in 2019.
Due to the online dating boom in recent years, fraudulent romance schemes have increased exponentially in frequency. Typically, a scammer will create a profile on an online dating site or social media platform and lure individuals they perceive as being vulnerable to them by following/friending them and developing a rapport through chatting or texting. They generally fabricate myriad excuses for why they cannot meet their victim in person quite yet. In many ways, COVID-19 unfortunately enabled this strategy; being unable to meet a prospective date seemed much more believable and understandable during nationwide quarantine.
Eventually, when the scammer feels enough trust has been built, they may ask their victim to send them money via a variety of methods, including money orders and gift cards. To avoid falling victim to these schemes, avoid sending money to someone you don’t know well or haven’t met in person.
Because of the many forms they often take, imposter scams can be difficult to recognize. Fraudsters may pose as any one of an assortment of different roles — government agency officials, bank employees, even family members or friends — to try to gain access to personal data like passwords or bank information. Older adults are a frequently targeted demographic of this type of scheme because they often have good credit.
Family imposters will often pose as a loved one by stealing their information and personal photos from social media platforms or even by hacking their social media altogether. They may concoct some sort of emergency situation to pressure you into sending them money immediately. If you find yourself in this sort of situation, stay calm and take your time answering if you choose to answer at all. This type of scammer feeds off of your anxiety and worry. Never respond immediately out of panic and send money. Take a moment to call your family member directly and confirm it’s really them messaging you. If you can’t do this, ask the potential scammer something personal that only that person would be able to answer.
Government imposters may pose as officials from Social Security or the IRS in an attempt to acquire your personal information. These scammers will often work with a sort of script. For example, they may claim your SSN has been suspended or linked to criminal activity or that you owe taxes that may lead to legal action or arrest if not paid immediately. Remember a scammer’s goal is to intimidate you into giving up money or personal information without stopping to think.
Tech support scammers stole $24 million from adults aged 60+ in 2019 alone. These fraudsters convince their victims their computer or smartphone has a virus and then ask for payment to resolve the issue. While they may attempt calling you directly, they typically connect with victims online; on certain websites, a pop-up may appear warning of a virus or security issue. Although the message may seem legitimate and very urgent, it’s merely a ploy to get you to click on it.
These tech scammers may claim to work for a well-known computer company such as Microsoft or Apple. However, these companies rarely contact customers about these types of issues unless you have contacted them first. If you encounter a pop-up like this, the best thing to do is ignore it and close the tab altogether.
The best preventative measure you can take to protect yourself from financial fraud or identity theft is being aware of common scams and educating yourself about how they are carried out. The FTC has many resources in place to help inform and protect older adults from these schemes. Among these are their Pass It On campaign and their Consumer Alerts page, where you can subscribe via email to receive information about burgeoning scams. If a scam affects you or a loved one, you can bring it to the FTC’s attention by reporting it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.