You may think that you could never be tricked into giving someone your personal information, but it happens more often these days than you would think.
According to research done by CUNA, “Up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion”.
Individuals over 60 years old are the most at risk of being targeted by criminals. This is because those over the age of 60 are more financially secure, they may experience memory issues, and they are more trusting of others.
Now, you may be wondering “what do these scams look like?” That is why we are here to inform you on the most popular scams being used right now.
The most popular scam used to target those age 60 and above is the “Grandparent Scam”. This is one of the most dangerous scams because it takes advantage of one of the many vulnerabilities for older individuals – the love of a grandchild. A scammer may call you and say something like “Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who this is?” Once you “correctly” guess who the “grandchild” is, the scammer will have established a false identity without much effort or research. They will usually ask for money to solve an “unexpected financial issue”, such as overdue rent, payment for car repairs or even a hospital bill because the grandchild has been in an accident.
They will typically ask you to pay this sum through Western Union, MoneyGram, or some similar method.
The next scam to watch out for is the “Tech Support” scam. You will receive an email, phone call or voice mail from somebody who is claiming to be a representative from a major tech company such as Apple or Microsoft. The scammer will tell you that they are reaching out to you to help solve an issue such as a compromised email, financial account, computer virus or a software issue. They are also able to fake their caller ID to make it appear as one of these companies. Sometimes if you are searching for an official tech support number online, the false number can come up.
According to CUNA “These scammers convince people to hand over remote access to their computer and then make a big show of “troubleshooting.” They may open system folders or run scans that seem to show evidence of a problem. Then they ask for money for supposed repairs and things like fake service contracts.”
Another scam to be aware of is the “Online Romance” scam. The scammer may create a fake profile on social media or a dating app. They may claim to be living or traveling outside of the US to avoid meeting in person. Signs to watch for are: quick escalation of the relationship, love bombing, asking to meet up and then making excuses each time to avoid meeting and asking for your email or phone number in order to move the chat to a more private location. The scam comes in when they come up with a fake emergency scenario and will ask you for financial help to get them out of a bad situation.
One of the most popular scams circulating right now is the “Email/Phishing” scam. You will receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate company or financial institution asking you to update, verify or log back into your account. The form will ask you to put in your personal information.
You may also receive an email that seems to be from the IRS concerning a tax refund and requests your personal information to receive those funds. The IRS does not do this.
Lastly we have the “Sweepstakes/Lottery” scams. The scammer will falsely inform you that you have won a lottery or a sweepstakes, and ask for some type of payment. For example, they may ask you to cover the taxes or fees before they can send you your winnings. To make this look legitimate they will often send a check that can be deposited into your account. Before the check has time to be rejected as fraudulent, the scammer will quickly collect the money from your account. This may appear to be the “taxes or fees”. Then, the check will bounce, the scammer will disappear and you lose a lot of money.
Here are some tips on ways to keep yourself safe from online scams:
- Be careful oversharing personal details online, as this could make you a target.
- Always be suspicious when talking to someone you don’t know online.
- Do not blindly click on links.
- Do not send money to people you haven’t met in person.
- Do not “friend” people you don’t know
- Ask someone you trust for a second opinion.
- Take your time to think it through.
- Do your own research.
- Utilize callback verification for potential tech support or family emergency scams. Hang up and call your family member directly, or research the tech support company online to determine legitimacy.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov/complaint) or the Federal Bureau of Investigations (ic3.gov).