Scammers love to go after senior citizens, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources available to help stop the spread of scams, and to help empower individuals to fight back without becoming a victim.
A recent senior citizens’ symposium is just one example of the kinds of education and awareness that groups like the Federal Trade Commission and AARP are promoting. By combining forces to cover a wide variety of topics, the agencies are working to ensure that senior citizens are aware of the threat and know when to step away from a fraud attempt.
One very important aspect to the recent training was identifying the three major categories of scams. While these three types can impact anyone, they are especially important when talking about elderscam.
Fear – It’s sad to know that there are scams that play off of the victim’s fears, but that’s a very common tactic used to steal from seniors. Some very common fear-based scams include:
- Threats from phony IRS agents who inform the victim he owes taxes or penalties
- People who pretend to be kidnappers who’ve taken the victim’s grandchild
- A person reportedly calling from the utility company, threatening to turn off the victim’s electricity for non-payment
- A fake call from a bank or financial institution that states the victim has bounced checks and is facing prosecution
Sympathy – Many senior citizens live in less-than-lavish financial circumstances. Through careful savings and planning for retirement, a comfortable standard of living is the ideal. But too many individuals who worked hard to squirrel away money for their retirement are able to sympathize with those who are less fortunate, possibly because they themselves understand the rigid constraints of a fixed-income. For this reason, scammers target the elderly relentlessly with things like:
- Fake charities or aide collections following a large-scale disaster
- Requests for money to save a child’s life
- Emails that claim the individual is stranded in a foreign country and needs money to get home
- Lonely individuals claiming a desire for a romantic relationship
Greed – Like it or not, greed is a very real human response, and scammers are all too happy to feed that greed with phony offers at making free money. Even some people who should be trustworthy—like church officials or financial advisors—can end up being part of the problem and bilking seniors out of their money. Some common greed-based scams include:
- Pyramid schemes that promise “easy money” after you submit your payment
- Work-from-home jobs that don’t require you to actually do anything
- Selling bogus memberships or financial planning programs that don’t offer any return
- Emails from people who claim they have millions to share and just need your help processing the funds
- Reshipping scams, in which the victim is unwittingly trafficking stolen goods
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.