According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2021 an estimated 92,000 Americans over the age of 60 reported being the victims of fraud, losing $1.7 billion collectively. While fraud affects individuals of all ages, older adults are suffering the greatest financial loss from fraud than any other age group.
Knowledge is key; the best way to protect ourselves and those we love is to educate ourselves on some of the common tactics criminals are using to target seniors. Armed with this knowledge, we can then proactively equip the older adults in our lives to successfully identify when they are being targeted in a fraud attempt.
Tech support fraud
These types of scams tap into the concern that our personal computers are not protected from harmful viruses and data hackers. Seniors may be contacted via an unsolicited phone call, e-mail or a pop-up message on the computer with a warning that purchase or renewal of computer protection software is imperative lest you wish your computer to be susceptible to a virus attack.
These messages are nothing but an attempt to obtain your credit card information and/or gain access to data on your computer by installing malware. To prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam:
• Use anti-viral software from a trusted company and keep your subscription up to date
never give out your credit card or bank account information to someone who contacts you
avoid clicking on pop-up links, regardless of how legitimate they seem
• If you are concerned about the security of your computer, call the customer service number of your anti-virus software company directly
Non-delivery fraud occurs when payment is given but the goods or services purchased are never received. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans than ever before are completing their shopping online. Scammers are aware of this and are using this opportunity to steal from unsuspecting victims by way of bogus websites to collect payment and credit card information without the intent of delivering any products. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
• Conduct online shopping only from trusted, secure sources; look for an “s” in the website URL or a lock symbol, which indicates the company is at least using encryption to protect against hackers; poor spelling and grammar as well as lack of contact information are red flags
• If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• If considering giving money to a charity online, research the validity of the organization, such as on Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance website, https://give.org.
This scam preys on the emotions of older adults, using sympathy and concern for loved ones to gain seniors’ trust and steal their money.
Grandparent scams are an example of confidence fraud; in the scenario, seniors receive a phone call or email from someone pretending to be a grandchild or other relative in crisis and in urgent need of money. To avoid becoming a victim of confidence fraud:
• If you do not recognize an incoming phone number, let it go to voicemail.
• Do not rely on caller ID, as scammers have ways of manipulating this to appear as though the call is coming from someone you know
• Hang up the phone and call the loved one being impersonated directly to confirm whether they need help
• If you do find yourself in a conversation with someone you don’t know pressuring you to wire money, download an app, or purchase gift cards, report it to law enforcement immediately
Promoting Senior Wellness is provided by The Hickman, a Quaker-affiliated licensed personal care home in West Chester. Call 484-760-6300 for a tour. Visit www.thehickman.org for more information.