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5 Dangerous Financial Scams That Target Seniors

Watch out! Retirement in USA presents: financial scams that target seniors!

Sources from the FBI say that there are more and more financial scams that target seniors every year. In 2022, there were over 80,000 complaints from seniors regarding fraud and over $3 billion in losses. The numbers are huge, and the side effects are devastating.

While these cyber crimes aren’t new, con artists seem to be very creative, and they always come up with new methods to cause damage. The reason why their main target is seniors is because they are thought to have a lot of money in their bank accounts. While plenty of financial scams go unreported and are sometimes considered low-risk crimes, they can leave people feeling vulnerable and hopeless when it comes to recovering their losses.

We talked to experts regarding ways to protect against these financial scams that target seniors, so you won’t be tricked by fraud. If you want to learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your assets, keep reading!

financial scams that target seniors
Photo by Darren Brode from shutterstock.com

1. Lottery and sweepstakes scams

We start off our list of financial scams that target seniors by talking about lottery and sweepstakes fraud. You’ve probably heard about the lottery scam before because it’s quite popular and it’s been presented on the news several times.

In this case, con artists call an elderly person and claim to have won a lottery or other important prize. They say that to receive your award, you must pay the taxes before, so they’ll ask you to pay cash, send gift cards, or even money upfront. When fraudsters see that they’ve tricked you, they’ll ask for thousands of dollars to cover alleged taxes and processing fees.

Another technique they use to build trust is by posing as well-known sweepstakes companies, such as Publishers Clearing House. As you can imagine, there’s no prize waiting for you. In other cases, these crooks might convince you to transfer further funds by promising your winnings would arrive shortly after the payment is done.

Keep in mind that these financial scams that target seniors might not be a one-time-only thing. After they tricked you into making a false payment, they might continue to call you for months or even years.

2. Scams using government impersonation

Another one of these popular financial scams that target seniors is the government impersonation scam, sometimes referred to as the government imposter scam. In these cases, con artists call gullible senior citizens under the pretense of the Social Security Administration (SSA), Medicare, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The way these frauds formulate their frauds sounds scary and makes people fall for them: if you, the taxpayer, don’t pay up right away, they might claim you have overdue taxes and threaten to have you arrested or deported. But that’s not all. If they see that you don’t really believe what they say, they might threaten to stop paying Social Security or Medicare benefits, especially if you also refuse to give your identifiable information.

Make sure you don’t give anyone your personal information, because if it ends up in the wrong hands, your identity could be stolen. According to statistics, these financial scams that target seniors are highly dangerous. For instance, in 2022, people over the age of 60 will have lost over $270 million due to government impersonation and tech support that originated from call centers.

Keep in mind that these con artists might ask you for specific things, such as cash, wire transfer, or a prepaid debit card. They frequently “spoof” the real phone number of a government agency or make calls from the same ZIP code (202 for Washington, D.C., for example) with the help of specialized technology. This might lead some people to believe the caller is legitimate, but be careful.

financial scams that target seniors
Photo by Ken stocker from shutterstock.com

3. Robocalls and phone frauds

We continue with these financial scams that target seniors, and this time we’ll talk about robocalls. Robocalls are automated phone calls that use sophisticated technology to call a huge number of households worldwide. Even though this technology has legitimate applications, robocalls can also be used to cause serious damage to unsuspecting senior citizens who answer the phone.

Certain robocalls might inform you that your car or electronic device’s warranty is about to expire and that you must pay ASAP to extend it. This technique is similar to the government impersonation one we’ve previously talked about: scammers will spoof the number from which they call their victims to make it seem like it comes from a reputable company.

4. The grandparent scam

Have you ever heard of grandparent fraud? This is another one of these dangerous financial scams that target seniors, and you need to be aware of it. This fraud relies on your most trustworthy resource—your heart—which makes it both incredibly easy and cunning.

Con artists can call you and say something like, “Hi, grandma or grandpa. Do you know who’s on the phone?”. If you say the name of any of your grandkids, they might think that they have your trust. This fictitious grandchild will then ask you for funds to address an immediate financial need. Since they don’t want any legal problems, they might implore you to keep it a secret.

They might request money transfers and gift cards, which might not require documentation to be received. As a result, you might not be able to get your money back.

There are also other versions of these financial scams that target seniors, and this one involves the “grandchild” asking for your immediate help. They’ll tell you that they’re in big trouble with a police officer or lawyer and will tell you to send them money ASAP to solve it. Since they’re under immense pressure and say they are your family, you might not have enough time to identify the situation.

Make sure you don’t fall for these scams, because they can be more dangerous than they seem. Some sources say that some scammers even showed up at the financial victims’ homes, saying they were sent to pick up the money. Keep reading to discover other financial scams that target seniors!

financial scams that target seniors
Photo by raker from shutterstock.com

5. Computer tech support scams

We’re almost done with these financial scams that target seniors, but we can’t end today’s article without talking about computer tech support scams. These rely on older people’s lack of technology knowledge and cybersecurity.

The easiest way to trick someone is to make their phone or computer display a pop-up message or blank screen informing the user that their gadget is broken and needs to be fixed. After the first step is taken care of, a phone number will appear on your screen, saying that you should call for repairs. If you pick up the phone and call, the crook might ask for remote access to your device and then ask you for payment.

Don’t forget that trusty tech support—whether via phone or website—will never actively seek you out to resolve a problem. Many people lost money due to these financial scams that target seniors. For instance, an Illinois man fell victim to scammers posing as workers of a well-known antivirus company and lost all of his life savings.

These con artists gained remote access to the man’s home equity line of credit and bank account by pretending to provide him with a refund for unused software. In the end, they got away with about $200,000, and, as you can imagine, the money was never found again.

Do you know about any other financial scams that target seniors? Have you ever fallen victim to a fraud? How did you handle it? Share your story with us in the comments below! If you want to know more about financial scams that target seniors and how to protect yourself against them, here’s a good book for you!

If you find this article helpful and you want to read something else from Retirement in the USA, here’s a good post for you: Are You a Toxic Grandparent?

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