5 Scams Targeting Older Adults to Look Out For

Grandparent scams

Scammers target people of all ages, but, for many reasons, older adults can be particularly vulnerable. A recent AARP Study found older adults lose an estimated $28.3 billion to scams each year. Here are 5 scams older adults should be on the lookout for.

Grandparent Scams

Most grandparents will do anything for their grandchildren. Scammers know this and may try to take advantage of a grandparent by faking a family emergency involving their grandchild. They often call early in the morning or late at night when they think you might be disoriented. They may pretend to be a police officer or lawyer with your grandchild in custody and ask for bail. Alternatively, they may pretend to be your grandchild traveling in a foreign country and in an emergency like a car accident or mugging and ask you to wire money. With Artificial Intelligence (AI), these scams have gotten even more sophisticated. Scammers are now capable of taking a snippet of a loved one’s voice from one of their social media profiles, for example, and replicating it so that it really sounds like your grandchild!

What to know:

  • Experts suggest coming up with a family code word that could be used in such a situation that would verify whether it was your family member calling or a scammer.
  • If they say they're calling from a police station, ask which one and call the station back directly to find out if the call is legitimate. Or use another phone to call your child or grandchild directly and find out if they are, in fact, in danger.

Government Imposter Scams

Scammers will often contact older adults via phone, email, text, or social media message pretending to be a representative from Medicare, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or the Social Security Administration. They may say Social Security or Medicare benefits will be cut off if you don’t provide personal or financial information. Or they may say you have unpaid taxes and threaten to arrest you if you don’t make a payment immediately. They will then use the information you provide to take your funds or commit identity theft.

What to know:

  • Government agencies will never call, email, text, or social media message you to ask for money or sensitive information.
  • Scammers may “spoof” the actual phone number of a government agency or call from the same ZIP code to try and make the call look legit on your caller ID. When you’re unsure if the call is valid, hang up and find the number of the agency on their official website and contact them directly.
  • Government imposters usually request unusually specific forms of payment such as a prepaid debit card, cash, or wire transfer.
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Technology Support Scams

Technical support scammers assume older people aren’t computer savvy. They may call and pretend to be a technician from a well-known company and say they’ve found a problem with your computer. They often ask you to give them remote access to your computer and pretend to run a test. Then they try to make you pay to fix a non-existent problem. They may also try to trick you with pop-up windows on your computer screen. They may look like messages from your operating system or antivirus software and use logos from trusted companies. The message in the window may say your device is damaged and needs fixing and tell you to call a phone number to get help. When you call the number, the scammer may ask you to pay a fee to have it repaired.

What to know:

  • Legitimate tech support will never contact you and tell you there’s a problem with your computer. Just like other technicians who can help repair other household items like your TV or refrigerator, you would have to reach out to tech support to request their help if you had a computer issue -- not the other way around.
  • If you’re unsure if a message is valid, contact a tech company you trust directly or visit a local electronics store that offers tech support.

Obituary Scams

Sadly, scammers will even stoop so low as to try and use someone’s death to their benefit. When your spouse, sibling, parent, or other close loved one dies, it’s common to share details about the person in obituaries or on social media. Unfortunately, scammers may pay attention to those details and use facts commonly included such as the deceased’s birth date, where the person lived and worked, and family members’ names to commit identity theft. With just these few details, scammers may be able to obtain further personal information such as their address and Social Security Number. They may then use that information to access financial accounts, take out loans, or obtain healthcare under the deceased’s name, for example.

What to know:

  • Be wary if you get a call about outstanding taxes or unpaid bills supposedly left by a recently deceased loved one. Especially if the caller pressures you to pay immediately and asks for payment by wire transfer, gift card, or reloadable cash card.
  • Monitor bills to look for credit card purchases made after your loved one’s death.
  • Report a loved one’s death to Social Security, the IRS, financial institutions, the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), and other appropriate institutions as soon as possible so that they can place a death notice in the deceased’s file to prevent any future activity.

Prize and Sweepstakes Scams

The prize scam is one of the oldest tricks in the book. You may get a call, email, or letter saying you won a sweepstakes, lottery, or prize — perhaps a car, a cruise, or a computer. Sounds great, right? You’ll know it’s a scam when they ask you to pay or give them your financial information to get the prize.

What to know:

  • If someone asks you to pay a fee for "taxes" or “processing fees” to get your prize, it’s likely a scam. Especially if they ask you to pay by wiring money, sending cash, or paying with gift cards or cryptocurrency.
  • If they say paying increases your odds of winning, it’s a scam. It’s illegal for someone to ask you to pay to increase your odds of winning.

Have you fallen victim to a scam?

If you think you may have been the target of a potential scam or are seeing fraudulent charges on your account(s), please contact us immediately at (800) 666-0191, visit a branch, or video chat with us.

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