According to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing more than $5.9 billion to fraud in 2021. Impostors pretending to be government officials, relatives in distress, or others were the most common scams, accounting for nearly $1.2 billion in losses. Other schemes include fake lottery wins, online shopping scams, and Medicare impostors.
While seniors aren’t the only population targeted, when they’re victimized by scammers, they tend to lose more money than younger people. According to the FTC, fraud victims aged 80 or older reported a median loss of $1,300, while fraud victims aged 20-29 reported a median loss of $324.
Seniors have been an increasingly vulnerable target. A lot of the seniors who are cared for by the Seniors Helping Seniors® network live independently. We want to ensure that our entire network of seniors and their senior caregivers don’t fall victim to these scammers and con artists.
Seniors Helping Seniors® services offer the following tips for seniors to protect themselves from fraud:
- Slow down. Scammers often use a sense of urgency as a tactic. Slowing down allows you to contemplate the situation, ask questions and listen to your instincts.
- Don’t give out personal information. Never give personal information to any caller and limit the amount of personal information you post on social media. Scammers search Facebook, Instagram, and other networks for family information they can use to fool you.
- If you speak to someone who claims to be a police officer, call the police department to verify the person’s identity and any information they’ve given you. Call any family member allegedly involved in an emergency to verify the story. Scammers often plead with you to keep the emergency a secret, so you won’t try to confirm it.
- Verify the identity of any individual who shows up at your home. Don’t hesitate to call the company to verify they have sent a representative to your home.
- Remember that most government agencies won’t call you. If they need to contact you, federal agencies like the IRS, social security administration, and Medicare will contact you by mail, not by phone. And they won’t threaten you, ask for your personal information or tell you your account has been suspended due to “suspicious and fraudulent activity” and request a payment to have the account reinstated.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Calls can be spoofed so they look like they’re coming from a government agency, even when they’re not.
- Beware of delivery-status scams. These fraudulent notifications often arrive as text messages or emails, urging you to click on a fake tracking link and input personal information. The link may also install malware on your device.
- Hang up. If someone asks for your social security number or bank information to get your new card or new benefits, that’s a scam and they’re not who they say they are. Hang up immediately.
If you or a loved one is already the victim of a scam, Seniors Helping Seniors® encourages you to:
- Contact law enforcement. This will help you determine whether you are a victim, and they may be able to assist you in recouping any lost funds.
- Call the National Elder Fraud Hotline. Run by the U.S. Department of Justice and dial 1-833-FRAUD (1-833-8311).
- Close or cancel any compromised accounts. Act quickly to mitigate financial loss by immediately contacting your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution.
- Freeze your credit report. All three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — allow consumers to do this for free. You can freeze your reports online by phone or by mail. This prevents scammers from opening accounts in your name.
- File a report. Coronavirus scam complaints can be filed online with the FTC at ftc.gov. Identity theft complaints can be filed at IdentityTheft.gov. Complaints of all types of fraud can be filed at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC advises consumers to report anything they might think is a scam, even if they’re unsure. Unwanted calls, as well as spam emails and texts, can also be reported.