Top 10 Scams for the Elderly Part 2: Help Older Relatives Better Protect Themselves

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The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging released a report on the top 10 scams targeting seniors. In a previous post, we covered senior scams one through five, and in this post we take a look at senior scams six through ten. Reach out to a loved one today to help better protect them from these common cons.

Read: Identity Theft Affects Every Generation

#6 – Grandparent Scams

In reality, none of these scams is worse than the next, but the grandparent scam does seem particularly heartless. According to the FTC, people 70 and older report mailing large amounts of cash to scammers pretending to be their grandchildren.

This type of scam is also known as the family and friend imposter scam. Victims across all age groups reported median individual losses of approximately $2,000 to family and friend imposters, but the total losses were significantly worse for people 70 and over who sent cash—they reported median individual losses of $9,000.

The scam typically looks like this: A scammer pretending to be the victim’s grandchild calls to say that they are in trouble and need money right away. In about half of the reports of cash payments, victims reported that the caller claimed to be in jail or other legal trouble. The scammer adds enough detail to make the story seem plausible, and sometimes adds further credibility by having a third person, such as a supposed lawyer, doctor or police officer, speak with the victim as well.

What can you do about these scams? The FTC recommends talking openly about them with your family. The agency also recommends advising loved ones to always call a family member or friend directly on their own phone number if there is any reason to be suspicious, or double-check the facts with another family member, even if the caller says to keep it a secret.

#7 – Romance Scams 

Romance scams are a type of deception in which a con artist pursues a romantic relationship through a legitimate online dating app, social network, or chat room in order to extract money from the victim.

The FBI reports that victims are often both educated and computer literate. One woman reluctantly agreed to transfer more than $24,000 to an online love interest who claimed he was working on an oil rig and couldn’t pay his taxes. Another victim who came forward with her story in order to help educate others admitted that over the course of two years, she had given $1 million to a man she had met online.

Read: Romance Scams Break Hearts and Bank Accounts

#8 – Social Security Impersonation Scam

Social Security impersonation scams are much like IRS impersonation scams, in which a scammer pretends to be calling from the Social Security Administration to convince victims to hand over their information or their money. In the case of Social Security impersonation, the scammer may say that the victim’s Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or a crime.

Read: Is Someone Calling You Claiming to Work for the IRS? You May Want to Hang Up

Social Security scams are growing exponentially. In 2017, the FTC logged 3,200 cases of reported Social Security imposters, with losses of $210,000. Before the end of 2018, more than 35,000 people had reported the scam, reporting losses of $10 million.

The FTC advises that the Social Security Administration will never call to ask you for your Social Security number, to pay anything, or to threaten your benefits.

#9 – Impending Lawsuit Scam

In 2018, the impending lawsuit scam entered the top ten of most-reported scams targeting seniors for the first time.

The lawsuit scam is similar in nature to the IRS impersonation and Social Security impersonation scams, in which a criminal contacts victims claiming to be from local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. Victims are often told that there is a warrant out for their arrest, and that they will be arrested immediately—unless they agree to pay a fine or hand over personal information.

 #10 – Identity Theft

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), “Identity thieves can drain bank accounts, open new accounts, rack up huge credit card bills, obtain loans, apply for jobs, refinance the victim’s home, obtain medical care, and even commit crimes with the victim’s identity.”

In the case of seniors, the result can be devastating, leading to a severely diminished lifestyle from that point forward.

Fight Back with Education 

There are resources to help seniors combat these scams. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging provides a fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470. The AARP also offers a free helpline at 1-877-908-3360, where seniors can speak with volunteers trained in fraud counseling.

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