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How to Recognize and Avoid Phone Scammers That Target Seniors

Man on telephone holding credit card

Seniors lose more than $3 billion annually to scammers. Older adults are often targeted because of scammers’ perception that they have a lot of money in their bank account.

Unfortunately, scams can leave seniors reeling from the financial devastation of lost and much-needed funds. The best way to avoid scams is to know the most common tactics these con artists may use.

A prize winner

Scammers may call you and claim to be from a local store or company in your area. The scammer may tell you that you have won a free trip, but you can only collect the prize by providing your credit card information. With this information, the scammer can charge up your credit card.

There are some variations to this. For example, the scammer may tell you that you need to provide a down payment, or you may be asked to wire some funds to gain access to the prize. Be aware that you should never provide your credit card information over the phone.

A government impersonator

There are many variations to the government impersonator scam. Someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service may contact you and request your credit card information for a specific and urgent purpose.

For example, the IRS scammer may state that you have unpaid taxes. They will tell you that if you do not pay the taxes owed immediately, you could get arrested. The Social Security Administration scammer may tell you that your benefits will be halted unless you provide critical personal information. This personal information can be used to open new credit card accounts in your name and to commit other fraudulent activities.

Keep in mind that these government agencies will never contact you by phone for these purposes.

A grandchild in need

The grandparent scam is designed to tug at your heartstrings. The scammer may contact you pretending to be a grandchild in need. The grandchild impersonator may state that they need money for unpaid rent so that they do not get evicted. Some impersonators could tell you that they have unexpected car repairs that they cannot pay or that they need to pay a jail bond.

In many cases, the scammer will ask the grandparent not to tell anyone about their need for cash because they are embarrassed or will get in trouble. If you receive such a call from an unknown or blocked number, it could be a scam. You can always ask questions about family members to determine if the caller is really your grandchild or a scammer.

A medicare representative

Medicare benefits are available to all U.S. citizens who are at least 65 years old, so any senior may be targeted by this type of scam. A scammer may pretend to be a Medicare representative and ask for personal information. This personal information can be used for fraudulent purposes, such as opening a new credit card account in your name.

These scammers may make specific offers, such as services at a fake mobile clinic, for a COVID-19 vaccine, or even for genetic testing. Be aware that a Medicare representative will never contact you directly to request personal information.

Computer scammers

Not all scammers will call you directly by phone. In the case of a computer scammer, your computer may be infected by a virus. A pop-up message may appear on the screen that instructs you to call a tech support phone number.

Once you call, you may be asked to pay a tech support fee with a credit card. In some cases, the message instructing you to call for support may pop up on your phone. To find out if you are being scammed, try doing a quick Google search of the phone number.

Charity scammers

Another common scam that targets seniors is the charity scam. The scammer may contact you by phone pretending to be a representative of a well-known charitable organization. You may be asked to donate money over the phone to help individuals who have been victims of the latest disaster. Once a scammer has your credit card information, he or she can run up charges.

If you wish to donate money to a charity, do so through the charity’s website. Never provide your credit card information to someone who calls you directly.

The bottom line

Keep in mind that these are only some of the many ways that scammers may target seniors. As a rule of thumb, however, you should not answer calls from unfamiliar or blocked numbers, respond to online messages from unknown sources, or give your personal credit information to unverified callers. Now that you are aware of the common scams that target seniors, you can take steps to protect yourself.

As a Life Plan Community, The Moorings offers access to progressive levels of care. By offering a Lifecare option, we provide the means to protect your assets, create more predictable monthly expenses, and safeguard against unforeseen expenses. Contact us to find out more.