In today’s interconnected world, the internet has become a double-edged sword. While it facilitates seamless communication and access to all kinds of information, it also poses risks.
Each year, millions of Americans fall victim to scams. However, one demographic tends to be more trusting and, therefore, more targeted – seniors.
Unfortunately, scammers often pick out this group, preying on their trust and lack of familiarity with the modern technology. Telephone scams continue to be the most used tactic, but scammers also create fake websites, send shady emails, and advertise their schemes on the radio, TV, and internet.
In other words, scammers are everywhere, and you should be extra careful before sending money or providing your personal information to anyone. Knowing what the most common practices are can help you when dealing with scammers, and we’ve gathered together all the strategies to help seniors in one place.
Medical Insurance Fraud
Getting the right healthcare plan can be a big headache. Scammers often take advantage of this complex process to sell ‘simple solutions’ at extremely low rates. They may either cold call you or appear at the top of Google searches via paid advertising.
Additionally, healthcare scammers are known for featuring logos and names of reputable insurers or even the AARP on their websites. Of course, the service they offer isn’t what is advertised or might not even exist.
The best way to protect yourself from these scams is to read reviews online before committing to a purchase or check with your trusted individuals before making decisions.
Even if the proposition is beyond exciting, and the person is pressuring you to buy the service immediately for an excellent discount, always make sure you take things slowly and double-check before making any decisions. This approach is similar to medical alert system scams, which you should also be aware of.
With the internet being home to millions of businesses, including online pharmacies, danger can lurk in the form of counterfeit medication. This tactic also relies on ads and well-known logos to try and trick you into buying from them.
Scammers tend to exploit seniors’ need for affordable healthcare, offering ‘safe’ remedies that can either pose serious health risks or don’t exist at all. Fortunately, protecting yourself from this is easy: stick to reputable sources for medication and always consult healthcare professionals before experimenting with new treatments.
Fake Family Member
Impostors know that seniors will do anything for their family, especially their grandchildren. That’s why they send text messages trying to pass as a family member. Conversations usually start like this: ‘Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who this is?’. When the senior provides a name, the scammer pretends to be the grandchild and asks for money.
Generally, people will sign their names when contacting someone from a new number, so assume any message like this is a scam. However, for extra peace of mind, you can also use a background check service to look the number up and see if it’s actually a family member messaging you.
Unfortunately, with advancements in AI technology, this scam has now entered into a new and even more frightening phase. The fraudsters can replicate your family members’ voice and call you pretending to be in a dangerous situation. Then, they’ll try and convince you that they need money or other sensitive information urgently, and if you’re not paying attention, you may end up giving them what they want.
When it comes to this new scamming method, make sure you take time to assess the situation before acting. Ask questions you are sure only your family member would know before providing any other information on your part.
Retirement dreams can quickly turn into nightmares with investment scams. Fraudsters prey on seniors’ aspirations for financial security, pitching fake opportunities that can compromise their hard-earned savings.
The best way to protect yourself from this is to seek guidance from a financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Always be vigilant and skeptical of unsolicited, too-good-to-be-true offers.
It’s natural for you to call the IRS to ask about your stimulus check’s whereabouts. However, one thing that’s never going to happen is someone from the IRS contacting you about it. So, if you get a call from someone asking you to pay a fee for you to get your check, you can be certain that they’re a scammer.
The criminal may also ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details, in order to steal your identity.
The cleverest way to avoid falling victim to these scams is by filing your taxes with comprehensive tax software, as the company will make sure everything is filed correctly. Plus, online tax providers, like TurboTax, offer basic identity theft protection services to help you out in case the worst happens and you get scammed.
Fake Lotteries and Prizes
If you’re told that you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes and that you need to pay a fee to get the prize, run away. This is a common scam where the criminals send seniors a fake check while pocketing the fake prize fee.
This scam may also come in the disguise of a voucher seemingly from a big store like Amazon. To validate the voucher you’ll be required to call a number and the scammer on the other end of the phone will ask for your personal information, such as bank details.
To avoid falling for these scams, just make sure you know what you subscribe for, and don’t ever hand out personal information to people you don’t have 100% certainty are trustworthy.
Romance scams might not be as common, but they’re often the ones that cost seniors the most. Typically, scammers contact the elderly through social media or a dating website. They take advantage of seniors’ loneliness to get close to them, and when the target is wrapped up in a fake love story, they’ll ask for money.
It goes without saying that you should never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, but the best way to prevent someone from playing with your heart is by using a trustworthy dating website. There are plenty of senior dating apps out there, which allow for a much safer online dating experience.
It takes around 30 minutes for a scammer to create a fake ecommerce website that looks real. So, be extremely careful when shopping online, as you may either get a fake item or not get anything at all.
The best way to protect yourself is by sticking with well-known websites, which will solve these kinds of problems for you. Paying with PayPal also works as a safety net, as it returns your money when you don’t get what you’ve been advertised.
Lastly, never buy from an online shop you just discovered without reading reviews from third-party websites first. Still, be aware of too many 5-star reviews, as scammers may pay people to leave great reviews.
As a rule of thumb, when a deal seems too good to be true, it’s likely a scam. If you realize someone is trying to scam you, always report it to the FTC, as this helps the organization to warn other possible targets.
Unmasking the Scams
From phishing emails and fraudulent phone calls to deceptive websites, scams come in various disguises, preying on the unsuspecting. Always keep your eyes open to any red flags that may appear while interacting with people you don’t know.
To do so, it’s important to have in mind some ways to avoid falling for a scam:
- Be wary of unexpected solicitations: Legitimate entities won’t ask for personal or financial information without proper identification, so make sure to always ask for that.
- Take your time while making decisions: Sometimes, scammers thrive on urgency. Handling things with ease and consulting trusted individuals before making decisions will ensure you don’t succumb to high-pressure tactics.
- Verify, verify, verify: In an era where new scams are made up every day, verifying everything is your shield. Double-check unsolicited offers and requests, and ensure you always independently verify every piece of information you give.
Nonetheless, even with these three points in mind, it’s also important to be in the loop regarding new scams and how they’re evolving so that you won’t end up falling for them.
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