Senior Financial Fraud 101

If you are a senior, you are a target. Scammers and telemarketers want your money. And sometimes family members and caregivers want more than their fair share as well. The average financial cost for a victim of an elder abuse scam was $28,800, with the telephone being the most common way scammers contact you.

According to Merriam-Webster, a scammer is “a dishonest person who uses clever means to cheat others out of something of value.” In 2016, the top scams reported to the Better Business Bureau included the IRS scam, fake sweepstakes/prizes/gifts, the Tech Support scam, and the Grandparents scam.

How do scammers get your information?

Scammers look for information that will help them appear to know their victim. Social media is one of their targets that helps fill in the blanks of information they don’t have – especially for the Grandparents scam. They also use information on mail not shredded and phone calls. Information is also purchased on the internet from other scammers.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scam?

If someone you don’t know contacts you and promises you something, but you have to give them money first, it’s a scam. If the person dangles bait on the phone, but they want your personal information, it’s a scam. If they want your money NOW, there is no time for you to verify the details or call them back, it’s a scam.

How do you avoid being a target?
• If it is too good to be true – it probably is.
• Ask lots of questions. Do your own research.
• Don’t trust caller ID. It is very easy for scammers to fake the caller ID information (called Spoofing).
• Don’t take company information at face value. Look up the company’s information yourself and call them back. Don’t call the phone number the person on the phone gives you.
• Don’t stay on the phone just to be polite. Hang up, or tell them “I don’t give money over the phone. Send me something in writing.”
• Don’t use gift cards or money orders or wire transfers to pay for anything. It’s the same as sending cash, and cannot be reimbursed.
• Check your credit statements for unauthorized activity.
• Protect your personal information. When in doubt, don’t give it out.

What are the signs you’ve been scammed?
• Unrecognized charges on credit card/bank account statements
• Missing money from bank account
• Stop receiving bills that you expect
• Receiving mail at your address but addressed to a different name
• See procedures on medical explanation of benefits you don’t recognize
• Find accounts that aren’t yours when you check your credit report

What if you think you think someone has already gotten you?
• Recognize that you’ve been scammed and act fast
• Report the scam
• Cease all contact with the scammer
• Educate yourself, your family and friends

Resources

  • Police and/or Local Prosecutors
  • State of Texas Attorney General’s Office
    • https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint
    • Frauds and Scams page: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/frauds-and-scams
  • Federal Trade Commission
    • ftc.gov/complaint,, 877-382-4357
    • Identity theft, abusive debt collectors and most types of fraud
    • Ftc.gov/PassItOn
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center
    • ic3.gov/complaint
    • Internet-based scams, operated by the FBI
  • Postal Inspection Service
    • postalinspectors.uspis.gov, 877-876-2455
    • Scams distributed by US mail
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
    • consumerfinance.gov/complaint, 855-411-2372
    • Shady business practices and financial products, including loans, bank services, credit reporting, ID theft, debt collection and payment cards
  • USA.gov
    • https://www.usa.gov/state-consumer/texas
    • State and local consumer agencies in Texas
  • Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker
    • bbb.org/scamtracker
    • Help the BBB investigate and warn others about scams

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jill Schriefer with teleCalm. She may be reached at jill@telecalmprotects.com or teleCalmProtects.com.