Did you know seniors account for over $3 billion in annual losses due to fraud?  Unfortunately, more and more seniors are falling victim to scams, resulting in significant monetary losses and damages. Scammers prey on the older population because many are unaware of the tricks and are often too trusting of others. At Encore Communities, we want our residents and seniors everywhere to be aware of these scams. We’ll share several scam prevention tips for seniors and some popular scams you’ll want to avoid to keep your bank account and identity safe.
Why are Seniors Vulnerable to Scams?
As we mentioned, seniors can be vulnerable to scams because they are quick to trust, but there are several other reasons why they may become victims. If you began your retirement planning early in life, you may have a higher net worth, making you more attractive to scammers.
Many seniors may also feel alone and isolated, making them prime targets when a stranger begins talking to them, especially about an attractive offer.
Scammers also prey on seniors with declining health, especially if they are experiencing cognitive difficulties. They try to confuse you and make you agree to anything, even offers you may not fully understand. Scammers also look for not-very tech-savvy seniors and use this lack of skill to their advantage.
Current Scams to Avoid
Scammers use several techniques to lure you to give them your money or personal information. Be aware of these common scams targeting older adults:
Between 2018 and 2019, Medicare changed beneficiary cards to protect against identity theft. By changing card numbers from your Social Security number to a randomly assigned number, they were hoping to avoid problems. But scammers will call requesting your card number and claim your card doesn’t work, offering to send you a new one.  Be on the lookout for these scams, particularly around Medicare’s open enrollment period. It’s important to remember that Medicare will never call you for your Medicare number or other personal information unless you’ve permitted them.
Many seniors fall victim to tech-support scams that come as a phone call or pop-up ad from a fake company. The company will convince you there’s a problem with your equipment and ask you to send them money to fix the non-existing issue.
Tech companies won’t call you when your device has a real problem. Also, be sure never to call or click on numbers appearing in pop-up ads to prevent becoming victims of these scams.
If someone sends you a check with an amount that exceeds what they owe you and asks you to send them the difference, you may become a victim of a fake-check scam. Once you’ve wired the money, you’ll discover the original check was fake.
These scammers are good at their jobs because they use legitimate-looking checks, making distinguishing from the real things difficult. If anyone sends you a check and asks for money in return, that’s a huge red flag of a scam. Never send money back, and be sure to contact your bank about the fraudulent check.
If you receive a call, email, or letter saying you’ve won the lottery or other big prize that seems too good to be true, chances are it is. Lottery and “you’ve won” scams will ask you to wire money to pay a small fee to collect your prize. These are all fake. Any lottery or sweepstakes that asks for money upfront is not the real deal.
Scammers know how much grandparents love their grandchildren and prey on this. You will receive a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild, asking for money because they’re sick, hurt, or in trouble. This is how thieves get a hold of your money. To avoid becoming a victim, ask your “grandchild” a question they would only know if they are related. This can help to catch a scammer in the act.
While it’s always nice to help charities, you want to help legitimate ones. Scammers will pose as a fake charity and take your money for themselves. To avoid becoming a victim, research the charity before giving any money. If you can’t find any background information about them, chances are they are fake. Resources like Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance can help you sort out the real charities from the fake ones.
Robocall “Can You Hear Me?”
One common robocall will ask the person on the other end, “Can you hear me?” When they answer yes, they record their voice and now have their voice signature to authorize unwanted charges on a credit card.
Scam Prevention Tips for Seniors
Being vigilant and taking action are ways to avoid becoming a victim. Here are some scam prevention tips for seniors :
- Never sign blank insurance forms.
- Get a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you do any business over the phone.
- Use identity theft protection plans.
- Keep passwords private.
- Don’t accept prizes or help from sources that require personal information.
- Don’t wire money; it’s virtually impossible to get it back once it’s sent.
- Take your time making a decision; scammers like to rush seniors and confuse them.
- Talk with a trusted family member or friend if you’re being scammed.
- Block unknown callers.
Information to Avoid Sharing
Sharing personal information can easily make you a scam victim. Avoid sharing this type of information:
- Social Security Number
- Phone number
- Mother’s maiden name
If this type of information gets into the wrong hands, it can easily be used to get into your bank accounts and steal your money.
What to do if You’ve Been Scammed
If you’ve been scammed, preventing further damage is crucial. Stop communicating with the scammer, gather all information, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
When Social Security numbers are involved, you’ll want to contact all three credit card bureaus and the Social Security Administration. If your bank information is also involved, contact all financial institutions to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity. Be sure to change passwords and close credit cards to avoid charges.
Encore Communities Helps to Protect Its Seniors
If you are looking for a caring community to call home, contact Encore Communities. We offer a variety of living arrangements to suit you and your changing needs. Contact us today for more information.
Dan is Vice President, Marketing of the Alumus family of companies. A Seattle native, he earned his BA in Humanities and Political Science at Evergreen State College. He started his career as a newspaper columnist, eventually transitioning into marketing and tech writing for Microsoft and several other startups. He later launched a successful creative agency focused on branding, digital marketing, and content production in Los Angeles, where he worked for several nursing and behavioral health clients, eventually becoming the National Marketing Director for one of them.
He has taught Vipassana mindfulness meditation and MBSR and spends whatever free time he has with his son snowboarding, hiking, and camping in the mountains.