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5 common financial scams that target seniors

Updated November 4, 2022 - 5:21 am

Dear Savvy Senior: What are the most common scams today that target seniors? My 75-year-old mother has been swindled several times over the past year, so I’m being extra cautious. — Paranoid Patty

Dear Patty: While many scams today are universal, there are certain types of fraud that specifically target older adults or affect them disproportionately. And unfortunately, these senior-targeted scams are on the rise.

According to the FBI, there were 92,371 older victims of fraud in 2021 resulting in $1.7 billion in losses. This was a 74 percent increase in losses compared with 2020.

Here are five of the most common senior scams that were reported last year:

Government impostor scams: These are fraudulent telephone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration or Medicare. These scammers may falsely say you have unpaid taxes and threaten arrest or deportation if you don’t pay up immediately. Or they may say your Social Security or Medicare benefits are in danger of being cut off if you don’t provide personal information. They may even “spoof” your caller ID to make it look like the government is calling.

Sweepstakes and lottery scams: These scams may contact you by phone, mail or email. They tell you that you’ve won or have the potential to win a jackpot. But you need to pay a fee, or cover taxes and processing fees, to receive your prize, perhaps by prepaid debit card, wire transfer, money order or cash. Scammers may even impersonate well-known sweepstakes organizations, like Publishers Clearing House, to fool you.

Robocalls and phone scam: Robocalls take advantage of sophisticated, automated phone technology to carry out a variety of scams on older adults who answer the phone. Some robocalls may claim that a warranty is expiring on their car or electronic device and payment is needed to renew it. These scammers may also “spoof” the number to make the call look authentic.

One common robocall is the “Can you hear me?” call. When the older person says “yes,” the scammer records their voice and hangs up. The criminal then has a voice signature to authorize unwanted charges.

Computer tech support scams: These scams prey on seniors’ lack of knowledge about computers and cybersecurity. A pop-up message or blank screen usually appears on a computer or phone, telling you that your device is compromised and needs fixing. When you call the support number for help, the scammer may request remote access to your computer or that you pay a fee to have it repaired.

Grandparent scam: A scammer will call and say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity.

The fake grandchild will then ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem, to be paid via gift cards or money transfers.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.

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