Recent studies have shown older adults are more victimized by fraudsters. At Cambridge Court, we strive to support the physical, mental and financial well-being of our residents by informing them about scams that may seek to target them.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that financial schemes are becoming an increasingly common issue among adults aged 65+. According to Consumer Affairs, older adults are scammed out of an annual total of $3 billion. This equates to an average loss of $34,200 per victim. Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to not have been personally affected by fraudulent online activity, it’s likely you’re close to someone who has been. Read on to learn more about the most common types of scams among this demographic and what you can do to prevent becoming a victim.
With online dating skyrocketing in popularity in the past decade, fraudulent romance schemes have also increased. A scammer creates a phony profile on a dating site or social media platform to lure those they perceive as vulnerable by following/friending them and developing a rapport through direct messaging. They may concoct a string of excuses as to why they cannot meet face to face. Once trust has been established, they may attempt to extract funds from their victim, perhaps by requesting money orders or gift cards.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 enabled this strategy by providing scammers with a seemingly valid excuse for being unable to meet their online matches. This has led to romance scams becoming the leading cause of fraudulent online theft across all age groups, particularly 65+. Of the $304 million in reported losses in 2020 alone, $139 million was scammed out of older adults specifically. To avoid falling victim to these ruthless schemes, never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
Due to their typically good credit, older adults are a frequently targeted demographic of imposter schemes. These scammers can be difficult to recognize, as they may pose as any one of a variety of roles — including government agency officials, bank employees or friends and relatives — to gain access to confidential information such as your personal passwords or bank information.
In many cases, imposter schemes are designed to profit from the fear, worry and anxiety of their victims. With family imposter scams specifically, fraudsters often pose as a loved one by stealing photos and personal information from social media platforms or even hacking their profiles. Oftentimes, the scammer reaches out to close relatives, friends and followers and ask to be sent immediate funds to “help them out” of a fictitious emergency situation they’ve invented.
If you suspect an imposter may be targeting you, don’t panic. It’s important to remain calm; do not send any money or personal information. Take a moment to gather your thoughts and call your family member or friend directly to confirm they’re the ones truly messaging you. If you have no other way to get in touch with them, ask the potential scammer something only that specific person would be able to answer.
Government imposters often use a script and pose as officials from the Social Security Administration or IRS. These scammers try to catch you off guard with an alarming claim meant to intimidate you into sending your money or personal information without stopping to think. They may claim that your SSN has been linked to illegal activity and threaten to suspend it or that you owe the IRS an incriminating amount of taxes that must be paid immediately.
If you find yourself in this situation, remember the best thing you can do is remain calm. Don’t be intimidated into sending anything related to your personal finances.
Tech scammers often claim to work for well-known computer corporations like Microsoft or Apple. While some may attempt calling their potential victims directly, they often connect with victims online via fake pop-up warnings. These pop-ups typically claim your computer or smartphone has a virus that needs to be addressed. The scammer then asks for payment to resolve the issue for you.
These messages may seem legitimate and urgent, but it’s merely a ploy to get you to click on them. Most major computer companies don't reach out to customers about these types of issues unless you’ve requested help from them personally.
In 2019 alone, tech support scammers stole $24 million from older adults. The best preventative measure you can take against these schemes is to be wary when visiting new sites online. If a pop-up or message flashing across your screen seems fishy, it most likely is. Stay calm and leave the website as quickly as possible, or simply close the internet browser altogether.
Being aware of popular fraudulent schemes is the first step in avoiding them. The FTC offers many resources to help educate and protect older adults from these scams, including the Pass It On campaign. On the Consumer Alerts page, you can subscribe to receive information about new schemes that are becoming more and more common; if a scam affects you or a loved one directly, you can bring it to the FTC’s attention by reporting it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.