What are Elder Scams & How to Avoid Them

Did you know that elder fraud cost senior citizens in America nearly $1000 million in 2020 alone, as per information from the FBI? These types of scams are becoming a growing issue since criminals are using online scams to target older adults. Needless to say, scams have a considerable effect on one’s finances and can be particularly devastating for elders who could lose money they had been saving for retirement, daily expenses, or to pass down to family. The mere fact that they have been scammed can affect mental health and lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other difficulties.

As an elder, if you have been scammed, it’s understandable for you to feel angry or even be in denial. But know that you’re not alone. In this article, we take a quick look at some steps you can take to avoid elder scams.

How To Identify Elder Scam Schemes?

Scammers can be very creative and use many tricks to exploit others. In order to avoid elder scam abuse, it’s crucial to identify the typical financial schemes that generally target elders.

Romance Scams

Romance scams usually occur online, where the scammer will take on a fake identity and reach out to you through social media or a dating app. They will then share fictional details about their life and ask questions about you. They will communicate convincingly to build trust, and at some point, they will try to ask for financial assistance subtly. They may offer reasons for their sudden need for funds to guilt you into agreeing, such as a medical emergency or a crisis they are going through. However, they will devise an excuse when you insist on meeting them.

Tech Support Scam

Tech support scammers will lure people in through phone calls, online pop-up windows, texts, or emails and tell you that a security issue or problem on your computer needs to be fixed. They will then ask for personal and payment details or request that you grant remote access to your computer.

Grandparent Scams

Scammers can take a more personal approach by posing as grandchildren or other family members. They will carefully research their targets so they know confidential information that can help earn trust. Then, they will request financial help to get out of a serious situation, like a legal issue, for instance.

Government Impersonation Schemes

Some scammers pretend to be representatives of government agencies like Medicare, the IRS, or the Social Security Administration. They will get in touch through texts, phone calls, or emails that say that you owe some money to the government or that they require personal information. To make their case more convincing, they will even threaten fines or jail time if immediate action is not taken.

Fake Prize Scams

Fraudsters will contact you and say that you have won a prize in a lottery or contest and that they require your personal information. They will tell you that all you need to do is pay a fee to cover the shipping cost, and some scammers will even send a fake check and ask that you send the funds back to them. But, of course, nothing will arrive in the mail!

Home Repair Scam

Scammers can come right to your doorstep or call to offer home repair services. Sometimes, they may even request upfront payment or convince you to sign a loan that is part of the scheme. Once the payment is secured, they will leave without doing any work.

Investment Scams

Scammers can pitch that you can make a lot of money by using their risk-free and proven strategies to make money through real estate investment coaching programs and seminars. They may also use fake reviews and testimonials to add credibility.

Caregiver Financial Elder Fraud

Scammers are not always total strangers; sometimes, even people you trust can figure out ways to exploit money from unsuspecting victims. Whether it may be taking cash directly from the purse or asking for money to cover made-up expenses, this type of fraud is often one of the most common kinds of elder fraud.

Red Flags To Watch Out For

Scammers often attempt to earn trust by posing to be an entity you’re familiar with, like a well-known business or a government service. The emails they send will appear legitimate and linked to websites that mimic official websites. When they call, their real names might not show up on your caller ID.

If you get a message saying that you’ve won a contest you didn’t enter, you’re likely dealing with a scammer.

Suppose someone reaches out to you and tells you that there is an issue with your account. Be vigilant! Scammers will generally send an email requesting that you verify information or rectify a problem with an account. These types of messages will typically have grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, so watch out for this.

Scammers try to work as quickly as possible, so they will try to get your information and money without giving you time to think about it. They will pressure you to take action immediately by threatening you with legal action by posing as government impersonators. Investment scammers will tell you that their amazing deal is about to expire and convince you to act quickly. Fraudsters who impersonate grandchildren will stress that the money is extremely urgent and try to pay on your emotions to get you to go against your better judgment.

Scammers would ask that you pay them with a gift card, wire the money, or do some non-negotiable method.

A romance scammer will ask that the relationship be kept a secret, and a scammer impersonating a grandchild will request that you don’t tell their parents. What the scammer wants is to stop you from reaching out to anyone.

If you have fallen for a scam, stop communicating with the scammer. Check your bank and personal accounts for suspicious activities, and change your passwords. Consider reaching out to your bank, government agencies, local law enforcement, Credit bureaus, and, of course, your loved ones who might be able to support you.