The elderly are often attractive targets to scammers due to the accumulation of a lifetime’s savings. The elderly are also more prone to being taken advantage of by scammers due to their increased likelihood of social isolation, depression, and reduced cognitive abilities.
There are a number of current scams to watch out for.
Fake Phone Calls
One increasingly common scam is someone pretending to call from a government agency. The caller may even be sophisticated enough to make ‘IRS’, ‘SSA’, or the name of another agency appear on a caller ID system. Once on the line, the caller will claim that the potential victim is in some sort of risk from either owing a substantial fine, losing benefits, or even jail time unless the potential victim pays some amount of money right now. The goal is to get the potential victim to disclose account information that will allow the scammer to drain the victim’s financial resources. A variation of this scheme involves getting the victim to disclose personal information (Social Security number, address, date of birth) that can allow a scammer to later target a potential victim’s for exploitation.
Please be aware that government agencies do not first contact citizens about a problem or demand payment via a phone call. A letter in the mail is the usual form of notification of any sort of issue.
Another disturbing new trend is a caller pretending that a relative is in danger, or has been kidnapped, and the person on the line is demanding payment as ransom or to assure the safety of the loved one in question. This is almost certainly a scam. If this happens, the potential victim should immediately hang up.
Online Dating Deception
Scammers are increasingly setting up fake profiles on dating apps and services to entice lonely individuals to send them money. What makes this particularly dangerous is that the scam may not materialize for weeks, months, or even years. Typically, the scam starts with seemingly genuine communications with someone seeking companionship. Over time, the scammer and victim build up a deepening relationship. The scammer may even be willing to exchange pictures and phone calls. Eventually, the scammer will claim to either be in some sort of financial difficulty, or be unable to meet unless the potential victim makes some sort of payment. If a payment is made, the scammer will either cutoff communication or claim something went wrong and will then ask for more money.
The best rule is to never give money to someone you meet online you have never met in person. The inability to meet in person should be considered a major red flag.
Fake Emails and Attachments
A type of scam that people are generally aware of are emails pretending to be from financial institutions asking potential victims to click on a link and submit their login information for a specific institution. Typically, these emails have some sort of giveaway that raises suspicion such as grammar/spelling errors, but some fake emails may not have any obvious faults.
Whenever dealing with financial matters, people should avoid clicking on links in emails and instead connect to their financial institutions via their web browser.
Users should also avoid opening unexpected attachments in emails. Some attachments may turn out to be malware programs that can capture information from a person’s computer and send it to a third party. The third party may then use the information to access a person’s financial information and accounts. The best defense against this type of attack is to not click on attachments and to keep antivirus programs up to date.
To discuss how to protect yourself or a loved one from potential vulnerability to scams or financial exploitation, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.