Between smartphones, computers and various other forms of technology and methods of communication, scams have become more and more common in our society. Whether it’s a phone call, an email or a pop-up on the Internet, we have all likely been faced with one scam or another in our lifetimes. It is important that we know how to keep our personal identities safe from harm’s way.
Scams targeting seniors are even more prevalent, though. About 20% of Americans over the age of 65 have been abused financially, and 80% of telemarketing scam victims are over the age of 60.
Knowing the typical types of senior scams can help you identify and avoid them as they arise.
Be on the lookout for two distinct phone scams. With one, scammers call you and impersonate an IRS officer, demanding personal information and payment of “fines.” However, the IRS will almost always issue initial contact by mail, and communication will be free of threats.
In another phone scam, someone impersonating a member of local government will call to warn about missed jury duty and imminent arrest. The scammer goes on to request personal information for proof of identity. In this situation, it’s important to note that a local government worker wouldn’t seek your Social Security number or pose threats on an unsolicited call.
Senior scams have recently made headlines in Chicago. Fake scenarios including sweepstakes prizes, lottery fraud and computer viruses are being presented to seniors in the city. In most cases, seniors are being asked to wire money to collect prizes when real sweepstakes don’t require payment or split lottery winnings for fake lottery tickets that cannot be claimed.
Using the lottery as a means to scam seniors also comes in the form of emails. You’ll usually receive an email stating you’ve won money and need to enter banking information to claim it. Another common scam involves PayPal. You’ll get an email from the company warning you that your account has been breached and urges you to sign in to change your account settings. In both cases, it’s crucial to check to whom the email is addressed and the sender’s email for legitimacy.
With software scams, you’ll receive notice by phone or email that your computer is experiencing technical problems. Scammers will request remote access to your computer, and if granted, they can access personal data, install malware and more. In other instances, an email or Internet pop-up alerts you to “bugs” in your computer. At this point, you’ll be prompted to pay for expensive and unnecessary software, or download malware disguised as free anti-virus software. You’ll want to make sure that you never accept or grant remote access or download unverified software.
These senior scams don’t encompass all scams in existence, but they do offer an idea of what to watch out for. The main thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t provide personal data or other information unless you are 100% certain of the requesting source.