Tips for Avoiding Senior Citizen Fraud Scams
According to an October 2020 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are targeting more people over the age of 60 online than by the phone. The FTC also reports fraud losses totaling $388 million through the third quarter of 2020, a number that’s up 23% from 2019.
David Johnson, Esq., Equal Justice Works Elder Justice Program Fellow for the Senior Citizen Law Project at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida wants to bring attention to the increased likelihood of scams targeted towards senior citizens as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important to be aware that due to the increased number of senior citizens being isolated from family and friends during the pandemic, they are more susceptible to scams and fraud. Educating senior citizens and their family members about scams provides them with tools they need to fight back or avoid scams altogether.
First step is to identify what a scam is. There are many. A scam is a ploy where a scammer targets someone in an attempt to deceive them into giving the scammer money or something of monetary value. Typically, the scam is performed on the phone or over the internet, but sometimes people close to you also try to scam you or strangers may try to enter your life to scam you (example, door to door scams).
Scams come in all shapes and sizes. For example, there has been a heightened number of cases on residential property schemes that try to steal equity out of a senior’s home. There are also the inevitable internet scams via virus, malware, or even technician scams. Telephone scams may involve a call placed to a senior pretending to be a government agency, such as the Social Security Administration. Usually, scammers try to persuade a senior citizen to either send them money or give them personal information, such as bank account information or social security numbers.
How can I tell if something is a scam? This can be hard, because scammers are very good at getting people to trust them. Typically, if someone is calling you out of the blue offering you something or asking for money or personal information, it’s usually a scam. Be extra careful if the caller is creating a sense of urgency, such as some sort of limited time offer or that you will face dire consequences if you do not give them money immediately. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is. If someone is asking you to send them a form of payment other than cash or check (gift cards, cryptocurrency), be extra suspicious!
Who is at risk for being scammed? While everyone is at risk of falling victim to a scam, senior citizens are particularly vulnerable as many have been isolated from their friends and family during the Covid pandemic. Senior Citizens are very susceptible to phone and internet scams. We have seen an increase in phone scams during the pandemic here at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida including lottery scams (claiming you won a large sum of money but need to send money to have the winnings released to you)
What can senior citizens do to avoid scams? It is important that loved ones communicate to their elder family members that they should never, ever give out personal information to strangers over the phone, even if it seems like they might already have some of their personal information. Also, seniors can talk to their bank about fraud prevention measures they have, as well as setting up account activity notifications. If the bank does not offer those measures, consider moving your money to one that does.
Senior citizens can also monitor their credit report regularly. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report on weekly basis during the Covid 19 Pandemic. annualcreditreport.com. You can also consider ID Theft insurance, but read the fine print and be careful before you purchase.
What to do if you think you have been the victim of fraud/scam? File a police report. Fill out a report on the Federal Trade Commission’s website https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/. Contact your state’s attorney general’s office http://myfloridalegal.com/. Alert any financial institutions you have accounts with.
Our goal at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida is to shed light on these factors to raise awareness and prevent senior citizen scams or fraud from happening. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please call us at 954-736-2400.
This post is supported by a subaward from Equal Justice Works as part of an original grant 2019-V3-GX-K033, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this communication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or Equal Justice Works