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Why It Matters:
Scam artists continue to target seniors with a wide variety of crafty cons.
Tactics range from aggressive phone calls to deceitful emails to real-sounding charities.
Arming your clients with information might help them avoid being victimized.
For your aging and elderly clients, having a discussion about the threat of scams and fraud could help protect them from serious financial trouble now and in the future.
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 older adults indicated some form of “perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past.” But, the organization notes, only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.
While crooks and conmen continue to develop unscrupulous ways to swindle unsuspecting seniors, one of the best defenses might be education. Have a talk with your clients about these common forms of senior scams perpetrated by strangers. Encourage them to get informed and help them understand where to turn should they ever encounter issues.
Common stranger scams
A seemingly reputable company sends an email requesting personal information.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says legitimate companies never ask for sensitive information through insecure channels. Recipients should never reply to email, text, or pop-up messages asking for personal or financial information.
An aggressive scammer impersonates an IRS agent and claims an error has been found on a return. The would-be victim is said to owe additional taxes and is threatened with criminal prosecution.
- The IRS never initiates contact with a taxpayer over the phone, nor do they demand payment without allowing a chance to question or appeal.
- Victims should report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or call 800-366-4484.
Sweepstakes or lottery
Telemarketers call and promise a sweepstakes or lottery prize, but a processing fee is required to claim the winnings.
- A legitimate sweepstakes will never require winners pay insurance, taxes, or shipping to collect a prize.
A caller requests money for a specific cause, such as one related to a recent disaster.
- Before making a donation, research the charity to determine whether it’s trustworthy. The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance is a good place to start. Other organizations that can help vet charities include Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.
- Anyone victimized by a charity scam should file a complaint with the FTC.
Thieves attempt to steal personal information such as name, date of birth, address, and Social Security number, and then use it to open credit cards.
- Victims may consider a “credit freeze,” which makes it more difficult for thieves to open a card in someone’s name. Request a freeze by contacting each of the three primary credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Fees range from $5 to $10.
A contractor insists on payment up front for work he never intends to complete; or a victim might be overcharged for completed work or charged multiple times for the same project.
- Always check with the local Better Business Bureau before hiring a contractor.
- Ask contractors to share references from other homeowners who have hired them.
Unfortunately, this is only a partial list of the numerous scams targeting seniors. But arming your clients with information and encouraging them to be wary of “offers” that sound too good to be true might help them avoid financial predicaments.
Things to Consider:
Talk to your clients about common forms of stranger fraud, like email phishing, IRS impersonation, phony sweepstakes and home improvement scams.
Let them know that if they ever feel they’ve been victimized to report the incident immediately.
Being informed and aware can be a good defense.