While seniors are not the only people who are targeted by scams, they tend to be popular targets for this type of fraud for several reasons. For one, they often own their own home and may have a larger than average savings. Seniors also tend to be more trusting of strangers than younger people and less likely to acknowledge when they are victims of a scheme.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of seniors are targeted, and nearly one in twenty adults over the age of 60 fall victim to this type of crime.
The first step in protecting yourself is knowing about the most common types of scams out there, so you can identify the fraud before you become the next victim.
Common Scams Targeting Seniors
Here are the most common scams out there and some helpful tips on how you can avoid them.
IRS Imposter Scam
One of the top reported scams every year is the IRS scam. You probably have gotten this one before. Millions of people have been contacted by these fraudsters claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Typically this is a phone scam; however, they also may contact you by email claiming to be from the IRS. Often they will say you owe back taxes and penalties, with threats of severe fines and penalties. Victims are then asked to pay via wire transfer or credit card.
How to avoid this scam: As with any phone or internet scam, NEVER provide financial information, credit card numbers, or your social security number to someone on the phone. Legitimate communications from the IRS always come by mail, and they will never require immediate payment or threaten legal action. The best response to such a call is to hang up. If you would like to confirm if you do owe any taxes, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
Medicare scams are another common scam targeting seniors and fall into a broad category of schemes. Here are some of the most common scams that involve Medicare:
- You qualify for a refund, and you must share your Medicare number and banking information to receive your money.
- You must purchase Part D prescription coverage, or you will lose all of your Medicare coverage. In reality, Part D is optional and not required.
- You qualify for free medical devices or equipment, but you need to share your social security number and credit card number to pay for shipping and handling fees.
- You are eligible for additional benefits, but you need to provide your social security number and credit card number to ‘update’ your account information.
How to avoid this scam: As with the IRS scams, Medicare will typically contact you by mail. And like any scam, you should NEVER provide your social security number, banking or credit card information. If you have any questions, call the customer service number on your Medicare card’s back.
Another popular scheme targeting seniors is when scammers pose as a representative of a charitable organization. This technique preys on people’s good nature and willingness to give to a worthy cause. Often these types of scams will increase after a recent natural disaster like hurricanes or earthquakes. Another approach is fraudulent charities for anything from veterans, police funds, or animal rescue.
How to avoid this scam: Like all these scams, never provide your credit card information over the phone. If you would like to donate to a worthy cause, research the organization online or ask the caller to send the donation information by mail. An excellent resource for researching approved charities to donate to is give.org (https://www.give.org) – a website from the Better Business Bureau.
Many other types of scams exist, but they all fall under the simple formula: get your credit card number, banking information, or social security number. Regardless of what type of scam, as long as you protect your personal information, you can protect yourself.
For additional information, visit the FTC’s scammer alert website (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts). Here you can learn about current scams and also subscribe to receive email notices of any new scams targeting seniors.