Identity theft and scams continue to plague the nation in epidemic numbers, and seniors are among the prime targets. The FBI reports that in 2022 those in the over-60 age group lost over 3.1 billion dollars to scammers, an increase of 84% over the prior year. Many seniors have lost their hard-earned savings in schemes meticulously crafted to trick and defraud them.
Common scams for seniors
Seniors are often more trusting and are more easily taken advantage of. Many have substantial assets, and they tend to be less tech-savvy. Scammers primarily target senior victims over the phone but can also use email or postal correspondence. The following scams frequently victimize senior citizens:
- Love or romance scams: These scams target elderly widows and widowers and groom the victim to deplete their savings.
- Tech support scams: The scammer contacts the senior and invents a technical problem on their computer. Once they are given remote access to their computer, they can pull sensitive personal and financial information.
- Government scam: Scammers posing as law enforcement, IRS agents, or other government officials threaten seniors with legal implications unless they pay a fake bill over the phone.
- Lottery scams: These scams are often done via email and claim that they are either winning or inheriting large amounts of money but will need to pay something upfront in order to claim the imaginary prize.
What can you do to protect yourself from fraud or identity theft?
Information is the best defense against having your identity stolen or becoming the victim of fraud. The following techniques may help seniors prevent common scams:
- Do not engage with any caller that you do not know. Either hang up or let the call go to voicemail.
- Do not open emails from unknown senders. Some may have a reputable company name, but when you look closely, there is poor grammar or misspellings. Never open email attachments from a sender that you do not know.
- Never provide personal information over the phone, and never send gift cards, checks, or wire funds to people you do not know.
- Equip your computer with anti-virus protection. Consider purchasing credit monitoring or identity theft protection.
- Monitor financial statements, credit card bills, and credit reports.
As scammers become increasingly creative with strategies to defraud unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned savings, extra vigilance is necessary to protect against these malicious attempts.