To con artists and thieves, senior citizens are prime targets for fraud, and they take their work seriously. According to Bankrate, senior citizens lose about $2.6 billion a year to scams, fraud and theft, and these crimes are believed by experts to be significantly under-reported. Here, we will look into why seniors are targeted, common scams that target senior citizens, and what they need to know to protect themselves.
Why Are Seniors A Prime Target For Scammers?
Seniors are targeted because these fraudsters know that they have had a good number of years to tuck money away, making it likely that they will have assets to exploit. Seniors also tend to be very polite – more likely to answer the phone than younger people and less willing to hang up on a pushy telemarketer. Seniors are usually more trusting. After all, they grew up in a different social climate – when a person's word meant something, a handshake was often as good as a written contract and neighbors looked out for each other. Unfortunately, in today's world, such trusting attitudes can make them easy prey for scams that target senior citizens.
Common Scams That Target Senior Citizens
Phone scams are a very common means that con artists use to steal from seniors. They may get a call from a person who claims to be from their bank, explaining that their accounts may have been accessed fraudulently and asking for information to verify account details. Or, they may claim to be from Social Security, just wanting to verify banking details for their direct deposit. The goal, of course, is to get enough personal information to drain bank accounts or commit identity theft.
Other common phone scams include calls from strangers claiming to be a family member in trouble – could they please wire money? – or scammers telling seniors that they have won prizes out of the blue – give us your information and a small fee to claim your trip/lottery winnings/free gifts.
Scammers work by mail as well, sending seniors letters that claim they have won prizes – just send us a small fee or order a few products or magazines to claim your prize. Invitations to play foreign lotteries are common, as are claims that they have already struck it rich, or invitations for exclusive investment opportunities. Seniors who use the internet are sure to get similar scams via email – spoof emails looking for banking or credit card details, claims that they've won cash or prizes, or fraudulent investment schemes.
How To Avoid Becoming A Victim
Never give information over the phone – personal or financial. If your caller is a legitimate bank or Social Security official, they will be happy to give you their name so you can call those establishments to check them out – and do check. An honest salesperson will not mind giving you the name of the company he works for, giving you the means to look it up in the phone book and verify those claims. Never check via a number the caller offers – it could very well be a partner in crime just waiting by the phone to aid in the scam.
The same goes for email inquires that claim to be from your bank or credit card company – do not click on any links to verify anything, call those companies and speak to a real person. As far as mail solicitations, if a company requires a purchase or a fee to claim a prize, they aren't legitimate – since doing so is illegal. Unsolicited investment offers should always go straight to the shredder.