I received a call a few weeks ago from a lady who excitedly told me that she’d just been notified that she won $5.4 million in a lottery, but first had to send $500 for processing to the National Sweepstakes Bureau. I had the unfortunate task of telling her there was no such thing as the National Sweepstakes Bureau and she was getting scammed.
Certain scams targeted at senior citizens are particularly egregious. According to the FBI, in 2021 there were over 92,000 older fraud victims which led to $1.7 billion in losses, up 74% from just the prior year. Here are a few of the top senior scams:
· Government Impersonation Scams: Scammers call older adults and pretend to be from the IRS or Social Security. They tell them there are unpaid taxes and the senior will be arrested or their SS benefits cut off if they don’t pay immediately via wire transfer. Bank accounts are emptied and the senior’s identity stolen. Remember that NO federal agency will ever call. All legitimate communication is by mail.
· Robocalls: A common scam is using automation to dial a large number of households. The robocall says “Can you hear me?” and the senior says “yes”. The robocall disconnects and now the scammers have the senior’s voice signature captured that can be used to authorize unwanted credit card charges. What to do? Simply hang up if you ever answer the phone and hear those words.
· Grandparents’ scam: By studying Facebook or simply calling and saying “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” scammers can pick up the names of grandchildren. Posing as the grandchild, the scammer says he’s gotten arrested, or his car has broken down and he needs money fast. What grandparent doesn’t want to help their grandchild? So off they go to Western Union to send cash – for a totally fake scenario and the money is lost. Rule of thumb: if a grandchild calls, independently verify with another family member that they really need help, even if the grandchild asks you not to tell anyone.
The list of scams goes on and on. You can find great information on the National Council of Aging website, where I researched this information to share. Please talk with your parents and warn them about these types of calls. It might save them from losing their life’s savings.