Scammers continue to find new ways to commit senior fraud over the phone. Seniors are targeted for many reasons, but there are preventative measures you can take and tips to follow so you or your loved ones don’t become one of the many new victims each year.
From prizes that seem too good to be true to creative ways to convince you someone needs your help, millions of scams successfully steal money from seniors. The FBI reports that $3 billion is lost annually to senior fraud, and while you may think you won’t be the next target, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
People over the age of 65 are the most targeted these days because older people often:
- have good credit
- They are financially secure
- are trustworthy
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5 Common Ways Seniors Are Targeted By Phone Scams
1. Tech support or home repair scam
If you get a phone call from someone who offers technical support, that is, someone who offers to help you fix something around your home or who claims to be Amazon or another large company and says that they can help you avoid fraud, you should be very careful. Don’t trust any unexpected callers, even if they say they work for a brand or company you recognize.
2. Relative Phone Scam
A common phone scam is when you get a phone call claiming to be a relative, often a grandchild or other close relative, saying they need financial help because they are in trouble. Do not believe any suspicious story they tell you, even if they claim to be a member of your family or someone with them. Always check with another family member.
Similar scams involve scammers pretending to be a caregiver for someone in the family.
3. Government phishing scam
Scammers may pretend to be a government official telling you of a possible charge against you if you don’t pay for a crime you haven’t even committed. The IRS, DEA, and FBI will never call you asking for money.
4. Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam
This is a huge one that has become more popular recently. Seniors receive phone calls telling them that they have won some sort of sweepstakes or lottery, and if they pay a small fee they can receive their full winnings.
5. TV/Radio Scam
Scammers are smart enough to receive ads on TV or radio for illegitimate services. They may advertise a service that seems like a good idea to trick you into calling the number provided. Always do your research on the companies you will have to pay money to, especially mortgage and credit repair companies. A phone number is no safer to contact than a malicious link.
Red Flags for Senior Citizen Scams
- If you’re ever asked for personal information in a phone call you’ve received, such as your address, date of birth, credit card, or Social Security information, don’t give it out!
- Caller claims to be with someone they know but doesn’t have their phone number – never answer a number you don’t know
- Scammers can make you feel pressured to give out personal or financial information, but always remember that a call from a stranger could be a potential threat
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Tips to avoid senior fraud
- Never answer a call from a number you don’t know. Be sure to add all your doctors, friends, family, and important phone numbers to your contacts. That way, if you get a call from someone you don’t know, you’ll feel safe not to answer. If it’s someone you know, they’ll leave a voicemail. If you have an elderly loved one, do this for their phone and instruct them not to take calls from unknown numbers.
- Set up your voicemail. Sometimes even robocalls or scammers leave a voicemail, but it’s a good way to screen the call so you never immediately fall into a trap. Be sure not to leave identifying details in your voicemail message.
- Leave a sign next to your phone reminding you not to collect the phone numbers of people you don’t know.
What to do if you are the victim of a scam
While it may feel embarrassing if you are targeted and the victim of a scam, know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to speak up and report any scam. There is a chance that you can prevent someone from scamming others, and you want to take these steps so that your personal information is not compromised.
- If you provided any personal information, please contact your bank immediately to flag possible fraud.
- If you mailed personal checks, call your bank to cancel the check before it clears.
- report the scam to the FTC and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Contact your state’s attorney’s office.
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Be sure to share this information with your elderly loved ones and be on the lookout for other scams on the rise. Sign up for the CyberGuy Report newsletter at CyberGuy.com/Newsletter to receive scam alerts and simply search for “scams” on CyberGuy.com. Please let me know if you’ve ever received a suspicious call that you think is a scam by contacting us at email@example.com.
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