As long as there are senior citizens living in our communities, there will be an abundance of scam artists targeting this vulnerable group in order to steal their money, identity and dignity.
For years, phone scams have been one of the go-to deceptions used by hucksters, manipulators, and thieves. With advancements in technology, phone scams have evolved in their sophistication. And while con artists continue to rely on this old way of trickery, they are constantly creating new tricks to scam older people, especially elderly widows.
One of the best solutions to a phone scam is to simply and quickly hang up the phone. Never give out personal information over the phone, and that includes Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and your birth date. Also post a "No Solicitors" sign on your door to ward away any door-to-door salespeople or shady handypeople.
A list of some of the common scams targeting elderly
Here is a list of some of the more common types of scams that target senior citizens:
- Medicare and health insurance fraud: Over the phone, crooks may ask you for your Social Security number, claiming they need it to provide you with a new Medicare card. Or they may ask you to pay a fee to help you better understand the Affordable Care Act.
- Counterfeit prescription drugs: Because many senior citizens live on fixed incomes and look for ways to save money, they are vulnerable to this scam. The internet is a common place for seniors to look for more affordable drugs. You must be careful ordering medication online. Cheaper prices sometimes mean fake drugs that also can cause harm.
- IRS Scams: Some crooks pretend to be IRS agents and either call or email insisting that you owe more taxes and must pay promptly. Visit irs.gov for more information about recognizing and reporting tax-related scams.
- The grandparent scam: Many seniors have been taken by this scam when a crook contacts them on the phone, impersonating their grandchild and providing a hard-luck story about being in a tight spot or in jail. They need money and ask you to typically send $3,000 to $4,000 via a money transfer service. Scammers may even use identifying information about family or friends from social media accounts to strengthen their story. Hang up and verify the caller's identity before responding to requests over the phone.
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams: You've been told over the phone that you've won the lottery or a free vacation, but in order to secure the funds, you must pay money or divulge personal information. This is another nasty trick.
- Voice recording scams: A recent ploy that can be used in any of these phone scams has been the "Can you hear me?" scam, in which the caller will record your "yes" response and use it as a voice signature to make changes on your accounts. If you're on the phone with a potential scammer, don't engage and simply hang up the phone.
- Home repair scams: Such scammers are referred to as "woodchucks." These shady contractors may have some construction skills and will insist that your home is in danger and needs immediate repairs. Pay them now, and they will fix it. Instead, please call the police.
Please pay attention to your elderly friends and relatives. Stay involved in their lives. Check on them periodically just to say "hello." Ask how they are doing, and remind them that they have your support. They're lonely and sometimes may need advice about their financial situation.