Sadly, there are scam artists who intentionally target seniors and the holidays are a particularly busy time for these predators. Whether you are a senior yourself or care about an elderly person, it pays to learn how some of these common scams operate in the hope that you will be able to recognize when you are the target of a scam before you lose money or assets. With that goal in mind, the Los Angeles attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain what you need to know about scams that target seniors.
Popular Senior Scams and How to Identify Them
Experts tell us that at least 3.5 million seniors are targeted by scam artists each year, losing a collective $3 billion, with an average loss of around $34,200 per senior, each year. Sadly, seniors make enticing targets for predators because they tend to be less technologically savvy, more trusting, and hold a majority of the wealth in the U.S. There are an endless number of scams targeting seniors, with new ones popping up on a regular basis; however, the United States Department of Justice warns seniors about some long-running popular scams, such as:
- Social Security Administration Impersonation Scam. A persistent and highly effective scheme involves scammers posing as representatives of the Social Security Administration. Victims receive phone calls in which the impostors falsely claim that their Social Security number has been linked to a crime or suspended due to suspicious activities. To instill fear, scammers insist on “verifying” the victim’s Social Security number or fabricating a need to withdraw funds from the victim’s bank, often instructing them to store the money on gift cards for alleged “safekeeping.” The urgency of potential account seizures or freezes coerces victims into immediate action. It’s crucial to note that the Social Security Administration communicates exclusively through written correspondence, never via phone calls.
- Tech Support Scam. This deceptive tactic involves a pop-up message warning users of a detected virus on their device, urging them to click a link to prevent further damage. Impersonating tech support personnel, fraudsters request remote access to the victim’s device and may demand payment to address the nonexistent virus or malware. Particularly vulnerable are elderly individuals, who may be less familiar with technology. It is advised never to click on such links; instead, contact support directly using a verified number obtained through personal research.
- Lottery Scam. Perpetrators, often operating from foreign countries, pose as lawyers, customs officials, or lottery representatives to inform victims of fictitious winnings such as vacations, cars, or large cash prizes. To claim these non-existent rewards, victims are coerced into paying fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes, yielding no actual prize in return.
- IRS Impersonation Scam. A longstanding scheme involves scammers falsely claiming to be IRS employees, using fake names and fraudulent identification badge numbers. Victims are pressured into making immediate payments through wire transfers or gift cards by threats of arrest, deportation, or license suspension. Similar to the Social Security Administration, the IRS never contacts individuals by phone; legitimate communication is exclusively done through mail.
- Romance Scam. Scammers exploit dating sites, social networks, and chat rooms to build fraudulent romantic relationships with elderly victims. These “long-game” scams gradually lead to requests for money. Any online love interest seeking financial assistance is likely a scam artist. In some cases, victims are unwittingly turned into “money mules,” receiving and forwarding illegal proceeds to the perpetrators. Caution and skepticism are advised in online relationships, especially when financial requests are involved.
Can I Do Anything If I Suspect I am the Victim of a Senior Scam?
If you get a phone call or online contact from anyone, do not trust that they are who they say they are. Instead, hang up the phone or ignore the online communication until you can verify that the person contacting you is really who they claim to be by calling the company directly or finding an official email address to use for correspondence. In addition, contact the U.S. Department of Justice or the AARP Fraud Watch Network Hotline if you believe you have been the victim of an attempted or completed senior scam.
Do You Need Help with Elder Law Issues?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about senior scams or elder law issues, contact the experienced Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.
- Ideas for Eco-Friendly Estate Planning - February 15, 2024
- What to Do After a Terminal Diagnosis: A Practical Guide - February 14, 2024
- The Importance of Estate Planning for Members of the LGBTQIA+ Community - February 10, 2024