In 2021 more than 2.8 million complaints of fraud were filed with the Federal Trade Commission, with imposter scams topping the list. Americans over 60 lost $1.7 billion to scams in 2022, according to the FBI’s most recent Internet Crime Report. Elders are more likely to fall victim to scams because they generally have more savings than younger people do, tend to be more trusting, and are more vulnerable because of cognitive decline brought on by dementia. Seniors are easy targets because they tend to be less digitally savvy and stay at home during the day. If you are the child of an aging parent, you may be wondering how to keep your loved ones safe from fraud. Kendall Law Group has a few suggestions.
According to Caring.com seniors in the United States are defrauded of billions of dollars every year. This is a serious issue. Seniors frequently lack the knowledge necessary to safeguard themselves against deception, which can leave them with mountains of debt. Companies that provide identity theft protection services can keep an eye on a senior’s credit, finances, and Social Security Number for any unusual behavior and notify the person if anything suspicious happens. These businesses frequently offer protection to cover any losses due to identity theft. Most anti-theft businesses give plans for between $10 and $20 per month, a negligible expense in comparison to the dangers of identity fraud.
In a recent evaluation of 16 identity theft protection businesses, the Caring.com team identified the top 9 firms with the best offerings. Low prices, a wide range of services, the availability of family plans, mobile app access, thorough credit monitoring, the addition of theft insurance, and member ratings and reviews all played a role in this decision. To review their findings and resources, visit: https://www.caring.com/best-identity-theft-protection/
What Is Elder Fraud?
Elder fraud scams target elderly individuals and take advantage of their vulnerabilities to commit money fraud or identity theft. Seniors are frequently deceived with fictitious offers of products or services. Once a senior’s confidence is gained, a con artist will attempt to obtain financial information, health insurance information, and occasionally actual property.
Common Senior Citizen Scams
- The grandparent scam – a scammer phones a grandparent and claims to be the police, reporting an accident or a crime, and informing them that their grandchild is in trouble. To “save” the kid, the con artists demand large sums of money via wire transfer. Since scammers frequently use their actual names, their schemes seem credible. Scammers are increasingly dispatching ride-sharing services to nursing homes to collect money.
- Government imposter scams – scammers call individuals and claim to be representatives from well-known government agencies (Medicare, IRS, Social Security Administration), often using Caller ID spoofing devices. These scammers may also know the individual’s full Social Security number. Most of these agencies will not reach out to you over the phone. If you receive such as call, you should hang up and call the official number of the agency for verification.
- Elder financial abuse – usually committed by someone the victim knows and trusts such as a family member, close friend or hired caregiver. This individual attempts to gain access to savings, credit cards and/or assets. This is frequently seen through tricking individuals to sign financial powers of attorney. In some cases, the individual will refuse to provide care without this information for their own personal financial gain.
- False investment schemes – as previously mentioned, seniors tend to have more savings than younger individuals. In an investment scam, scammers call seniors unannounced, pitching fake lucrative investment opportunities. Examples include Ponzi schemes, illegitimate bonds and certificates of deposits (CDs), charitable gifts annuities and prime bank scams. When it comes to these types of fraud, it is important to remember, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
- Tech support scams – scammers pretend to be tech support professionals from a trusted company and inform seniors that their devices are at risk of virus infection and convince them to provide access to their devices. Sometimes seniors are conned into downloading malware disguised as “helpful” software, targeting their banking information. This type of fraud is frequently seen using pop-up ads on websites specifically for seniors.
- Robocalls and phishing messages – calls or messages from individuals claiming to be from trusted companies. After engaging with the victim, attempts are made to extract personal information or to download malware through spam emails.
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams – victims are contacted and notified of winning a contest they did not enter and requested to pay fees upfront to receive their “winnings.” Victims are typically strung along for months or even years, claiming additional payment is needed, but any money provided goes straight to the scammer’s pocket.
- Elder romance scams – scammers create false personas on dating apps and social media. They conduct online research and use publicly shared information to entangle seniors in their scams. Once a trusting relationship is established, the scammer begins requesting funds, often in the form of gift cards, travel expenses or healthcare costs. Victims of elder romance scams are often tricked into making fraudulent investments, such as those involving cryptocurrencies. Those aged 50-69 are prime targets for these types of scams.
- Funeral scams – scammers attend funerals and inform families that their deceased loved one has an outstanding debt and demand payment.
- Reverse mortgage scams – reverse mortgages are available to homeowners over the age of 62 to access home equity. Scammers target elders with billboards, ads and fliers for reverse mortgage scams, claiming to help the person obtain access to their home equity. In reality, the scammer either takes the homeowner’s money or commits deed fraud and “steals” their home. Common types of reverse mortgage scams include mortgage relief and fraudulent contractors.
- Online shopping scams – online scams are rampant, but seniors are especially vulnerable. The FBI received over 13,000 complaints of fraudulent products and non-delivery of products purchased online in 2021, making this type of fraud the second most reported type among elders. Common types of online shopping scams targeting seniors include fraudulent pharmaceuticals or health and beauty products. Phishing sites, set up by hackers, can also pirate your elder parent’s credit card information.
- Charity scams – prey on elderly individuals’ desires to help others. These fraudsters present as legitimate charities and steal donations and personal information. Elders are often called in the wake of natural disasters by opportunistic scammers, claiming to be helping victims and soliciting donations.
Tips to Avoid Senior Identity Theft
- Safeguard Personal Information
- Remain Diligent
- Question Suspicious Emails and Phone Calls
- Proactively Monitor Credit
What To Do If Your Elder Parent Has Been Scammed
- Discontinue all communication with the scammer but keep records.
- Secure your financial assets – report the potential compromise to your bank or financial institution. In some cases, the bank may be able to cancel or reverse unauthorized transactions.
- Protect Their Credit and Review Credit Reports – report identity theft to the major credit bureaus: Equifax (800) 525-6285; Experian (888) 397-3742; TransUnion (800) 680-7289. You can request a free credit report from each bureau to look for errors and identify any fraudulent accounts for closure. A security freeze is a free option available to prevent the opening of additional fraudulent accounts.
- Secure All Devices – install or update anti-virus software. Consult an IT professional if you need help.
- Protect Their Online Accounts – change passwords for important accounts such as banking and credit card accounts, social media and email.
- Report Theft to Authorities – making a police report can help authorities pursue legal against scammers, stopping future attacks before they happen.
- Consider purchasing fraud protection.
About Kendall Law Group – Kansas City Elder Abuse & Neglect Lawyers
Kendall Law Group has been serving individuals and families throughout the Kansas City Metro Area since 1991 and has obtained millions in compensation for victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. If you feel you or your parent has suffered injuries due to nursing home neglect and abuse, we would like to speak with you. Contact Kendall Law Group at (816) 531-3100 for a free consultation.