Financial scams targeting seniors can get quite scary. Thieves are more clever than ever, often posing as banks, creditors, or government agencies to steal personal and financial information. Recently, the US Senate Committee on Aging has identified the top scams that target seniors. Here’s a quick rundown:
- IRS & Social Security Impersonations: Con artists claim that you owe back taxes and penalties, and threaten arrest or home foreclosure unless the amounts are paid immediately. Most government agencies would never contact you by phone, especially to demand immediate payment. The first contact would normally be a letter delivered by USPS. Hang up and call law the agency directly.
- Unsolicited Phone Calls: People are being targeted with robocalls, which are prerecorded messages with software to make it seem that the call is local. The best practice is to ignore unknown calls or hang up immediately. Some calls even claim you have won the lottery, and just need an up-front fee. If you are asked to pay anything in advance, it’s certainly a scam.
- Computer Tech Support Scams: A call from someone claiming to work for a well-known tech company like Microsoft, saying your computer is infected with a virus and they need remote access to help. If you are concerned about your computer, hang up and contact the company directly.
- Elder Financial Abuse & Family Emergency Scams: Scammers will contact seniors, pretending to be a family member and claim they need money to get out of a pinch. It shouldn’t be difficult to recognize if this is a real family member. In addition, actual family members, financial advisers, and caregivers can try to use your assets or properties improperly. Be aware of those who have access to your accounts, and before you accept financial advice, do your due diligence.
- Romance Scams: Criminals may contact seniors through social media, like Facebook. As communication continues and the relationship develops, they start asking for money. Be careful who you’re communicating with online, especially with those you do not have a previously-established relationship
- Identity theft: Thieves use your stolen personal information to make unauthorized purchases, or transfer money out of your accounts. If you notice any unusual activity, notify your advisor or financial institution immediately.
Remember, scammers will try to force you to make decisions and volunteer information quickly. Generally, do not give out personal information on an incoming call. Instead, call the phone number on your statement or visit the company or agency’s website to investigate the inquiry. If you believe you have been targeted by any of these scams, you may report this information by calling 1-855-303-9470, or at aging.senate.gov.