Senior citizens are a vulnerable population; not only are they more susceptible to succumbing to COVID-19, but their isolation during the pandemic can create a perfect environment for would-be scammers.
According to the FBI, seniors are often targeted because “they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.” They also may be less likely to report fraud because they’re unaware it’s occurred, they’re ashamed to have been scammed, or are concerned their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own finances.
Scams include everything from romance, government impersonation, and tech support to grandparent, sweepstakes, and home repair scams. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, “The tactic used is generally dependent upon the type of situation the fraudster finds himself in with the elderly person.”
In order to make sure seniors are safe and scam-free, it’s important to teach the seniors in our communities how to recognize scams, cut off contact with scammers, and search online for the perpetrators to see if others have reported abuse. Seniors should also be wary of downloading unknown software, opening or downloading email attachments, and clicking on pop-ups.
If you believe you or a loved one has been scammed, the FBI suggests you take the following steps:
- Contact your local FBI field office, submit a tip online, or file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Include as many details as possible, including the names of the scammer and/or company, dates of contact, methods of communication, phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator, methods of payment, and more.
All in all, seniors rack up more than $3 billion in losses annually—a sign that elder fraud could be a growing problem—which is why it’s so important to start educating our seniors on how to spot and prevent scams now.