Unfortunately, with the rise of technology there have been more and more accounts of retirees being targeted for financial scams to rob them of their wealth or identities. Because scammers have gained an understanding of how to trick and manipulate this generation, it has become quite common for them to try and gain access to bank accounts, personal information and in some cases, assets.
Learning about the common risks and schemes in this day and age can mean the difference between you or your loved ones remaining protected or playing right into the tricks of scam artists.
Common Scams That Target Retirees and Seniors
Health Insurance Scams
As a citizen who is older than 65, you qualify for Medicare benefits, which can make you a fairly easy target for health insurance-related scams. Scammers are able to carry out fraudulent behavior over the phone or even at the door utilizing insurance provider information, which they can acquire fairly easily.
A few common situations to be aware of include being told that you need a new Medicare card and in order to receive one you’d need to provide your Social Security information or discussions of new supplemental policies.
1. Investment Scams
Many retirees are interested in expanding their wealth, especially if they have a legacy to one day leave behind, which can make this group easy prey for faux “investment opportunities” that may not exist at all. Whether it’s offering their finances to a fictional business or buying a vacation property that isn’t real, investment scams have the potential to deplete retirees of their savings in a flash.
2. Internet & Email Scams
Because so many retirees and those of older generations aren’t always accustomed to the ever-changing details involved with the internet, these schemes have become incredibly common. Phishing scams, viral pop-ups and attempts to steal one’s identity are a few examples of something you may encounter. It’s important to keep in mind that no bank or other business will ask for personal information via email. If you are ever concerned or unsure visit their website directly or contact them for additional confirmation.
3. Charity Scams
We all know that natural disasters are often unpredictable and happen regularly. With these occurrences, scammers find opportunities to target those who have been affected or want to offer their support. These situations can occur over the phone, through social media, email or in person. Always donate to reputable charities and learn more using the IRS’s tax-exempt organization search.
4. Help/Grandparent Scams
This scenario often consists of someone calling or emailing the victim either pretending to be a family member in trouble or acting as a person of authority representing the relative. They then ask for money to be wired to cover certain fees, which you may be all too happy to provide as someone who is emotionally involved. In order to keep the situation under wraps, you may then be asked not to tell anyone and soon after will never hear from the “relative” again, leaving you out of a particular amount of money.
If you believe you’ve been exposed to identity theft or financial fraud, time is of the essence.
- Online: Immediately change the passwords on any affected accounts.
- In general: Check in with any bank or other institution involved, and the government agency responsible for overseeing the breach: the IRS for tax fraud, or the Federal Trade Commission for anything else.
Protecting Yourself and Others From Financial Scams
- Virus software: Install anti-malware and anti-spyware software on all devices. Keep it current!
- Passwords: Create strong, unique passwords (long random combinations) and periodically change them.
- Extra security: Use it when available, such as two-step verification or fingerprint access.
- Hyperlinks and attachments: In emails or on websites, be incredibly cautious about clicking on links or opening attachments, especially from unfamiliar sources (Phishing).
- Social media: Privatize your profiles and activities so only those you allow in can see them.
- WiFi: Be extra careful using public WiFi; assume the world can see what you’re doing.
Suspicious Phone Calls
- Identify: Whenever a stranger calls you out of the blue demanding or enticing you into sending money or sharing information, it’s probably a scam. Even when a caller claims to be someone you know, if their requests seem urgent, unusual, or emotionally charged – watch out. It’s probably an identity thief in disguise.
- End the call: Your best line of defense is to immediately hang up.
- Don’t cooperate: Never share your credit card number or any other sensitive information.
- Investigate: Do what you can to verify the caller’s legitimacy. For example, if they claim to be from the IRS, end the call and contact the agency directly to inquire further. If they claim to be a family member in distress, tell them you’ll call them back and then call a close relative to double check. Google the suspicious number to see if others have reported it.
- Report: Report the suspicious number to federal authorities.
Credit and Records Management
- Watch for inconsistencies: Look for odd or unfamiliar transactions in your financial statements.
- Watch for missing statements: In case your account has been redirected elsewhere.
- Monitor your credit reports: Request and review your free AnnualCreditReport.com for inaccuracies.
- Consider a credit freeze: If you rarely apply for loans, you may want to freeze your credit.
- Follow up promptly: If something seems “off,” immediately change any login passwords, and promptly contact the service provider and appropriate federal authorities.
- Remain on guard: There is still plenty of old-fashioned theft going on even if not on-line.
- Secure it: Lock up your desk, files, car, mailbox and trash bins. (Identity thieves will “dumpster dive” to steal your stuff.)
- Shred it: Use a shredder to destroy any paperwork you do not need to keep.
- When you’re out and about: Keep a close eye on your purse or wallet everywhere you go.
- Filling in forms: Don’t provide your Social Security Number unless actually required.
- Banking: When using an ATM machine, look for others around you or signs of tampering.
It’s important to protect yourself and those close to you from falling victim to financial scams that have become so frequent. Taking the time to address these details can help prevent you from encountering devastating theft.
If you ever feel suspicious of an email, phone call or other forms of contact don’t hesitate to go with your gut and do your research regarding the origins of the “company” or group you’re speaking with. Staying aware will help you ultimately safeguard your well-being.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.