According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost more than $5.9 billion to fraud in 2021. The most common scams – accounting for nearly $1.2 billion in losses – involve impostors pretending to be government officials, relatives, or others. Other schemes include fake lottery wins and online shopping scams.
While seniors aren’t the only population targeted, they tend to lose more money than younger people. According to the FTC, fraud victims aged 80+ suffer a median loss of $1,300, while victims aged 20-29 had a median loss of $324.
The following tips can help seniors protect themselves from fraud:
- Slow down. Scammers often use a sense of urgency as a tactic. Slowing down allows you to contemplate the situation, ask questions and listen to your instincts.
- Don’t give out personal information. Never give personal information to any caller, and limit the amount of personal information you post on social media. Scammers search Facebook, Instagram, and other networks for family information they can use to fool you.
- Verify. Call any family member allegedly involved in an emergency to verify the story. Scammers often plead with you to keep the emergency a secret, so you won’t try to confirm it.
- Remember that most government agencies won’t call you. If they need to contact you, federal agencies like the IRS, social security administration, and Medicare will contact you by mail, not by phone. And they won’t threaten you, ask for your personal information or tell you your account has been suspended due to “suspicious and fraudulent activity” and request a payment to have the account reinstated.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Calls can be spoofed, so they look like they’re coming from a government agency, even when they’re not.
- Beware of delivery-status scams. These fraudulent notifications often arrive as text messages or emails, urging you to click on a fake tracking link and input personal information. The link may also install malware on your device.
- Hang up. If someone asks for your social security number or bank information to get your new card or new benefits, that’s a scam, and they’re not who they say they are. Hang up immediately.
If you have already been scammed, you can:
- Contact law enforcement. Law enforcement may be able to assist you in recouping lost funds.
- Call the National Elder Fraud Hotline. Run by the U.S. Department of Justice and dial 1-833-FRAUD.
- Close or cancel any compromised accounts. Mitigate financial loss by immediately contacting your bank, credit card company, or other financial institution.
- Freeze your credit report. This prevents scammers from opening accounts in your name. All three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — allow consumers to do this for free.
This content is part of a partnership between Source of the Spring and Seniors Helping Seniors® to promote wellness and healthy aging throughout the local community. Seniors Helping Seniors® provides services to support seniors so that they can maintain their independence and remain in their homes. For more information, visit shsbethesda.com. Photo: © Tim / stock.adobe.com