Seniors are the demographic most vigorously targeted by scammers and con-artists. The methods they use are well-researched and extremely powerful.
Con artists and scammers preying on the elderly have developed a tried-and-true playbook for manipulating their elderly victims. They encourage them to open up their checkbooks or divulge sensitive information. And they always want more.
Once a scammer has gotten their hooks into someone, they are likely to continue to manipulate them into parting with more money or information that will grant access to financial accounts or services.
According to AARP, elderly victims lose hundreds of millions of dollars in a given year to scammers. Most of these crimes go unreported because, as these con-artists are well aware, the victims experience shame or embarrassment at having been duped and prefer to move on.
The problem is that many of these scammers use sophisticated hacking tools, both electronically and psychologically. Once someone is ‘on their radar’ as a potential mark, they may become inundated by other criminals in the network. They are then much more likely to suffer from identity theft and other fraud.
Scammers know that seniors are often holding a “nest egg,” own their homes outright, and are more easily confused. Seniors are notoriously poor witnesses, should law-enforcement become involved, which works to benefit the perpetrators. There are many organizations to contact to help with an aging family member if you are not close by.
Even a small amount of cognitive decline will increase the extent to which fear clouds a person’s judgment. Scammers targeting seniors ruthlessly diminish an older person’s decision-making capacity by being as intimidating as possible.
The National Council on Aging has warned that scammers posing as the IRS is one of the most successful cons seen to date because the intimidation factor makes them more likely to comply with scammers’ demands.
IRS scams most often come in the form of the authoritarian phone call, or an email “phishing” contact. Emails are more likely to promise an unclaimed refund, using hope to manipulate the victim into sharing the personal information used for identity theft.
Medicare will be issuing new cards this year. The cards will not visibly display the holder’s SSN, as current cards do. This obvious fix is geared toward mitigation of the identity-theft epidemic.
The FTC is forewarning all of us to be alert to scammers posing as Medicare representatives informing you that the new card needs to be paid for. This is not the case. To obtain your new card, you only need to confirm your current address.
Fake charities represent another hugely successful con. Any highly emotive topic will make us more vulnerable to poor decisions. As is usually the case, the elderly tends to be more likely to fall into the scammers’ traps.
- Grandchild in trouble
The “Grandchild in deep trouble” scam is also very effective. These scammers can learn a lot about the specifics of a family with just a little online research or social media prowling. Stay connected with your aging family members so you are quickly able to contact them.
Recognize a scam
The best way to identify a scammer is by noting the method of payment being requested. If an unconfirmed party requests payment by wiring cash, using a gift card, or loading money onto a cash-reload card, then they are almost certainly a scammer. If you experience such a call or message, you should report it to the FTC immediately.
How to protect your elderly loved ones?
First and foremost, if your aging parent is victimized by a scammer, be compassionate. Do everything in your power not to exacerbate their feelings of guilt or shame. Do not blame them. The scammer is entirely at fault, not their victim.
Doctors are another group vulnerable to scammers. It can happen to anyone. If your parents have been conned, encourage them to share everything they know with the authorities in hopes that they might help to protect other potential victims.
If you identify a likely scam, don’t just toss the mailer or tell your parents to hang up the phone and leave it at that. Remind them that there’s never a reason that a government agency would call and ask for personal information. Theoretically, they should have it all on file. Remind your relatives that there is no fee to collect legitimate prizes such as lottery winnings, or for processing a gift or “inheritance.”
Consider opting your parents out of direct marketing by having their names removed from mailing lists and un-listing their phone numbers. Cell phones are less likely to be targeted, so it is worth switching them to a mobile phone.
You can set yourself up to monitor their bank accounts online and watch for unusual charges, and perform regular credit checks just in case their identities are compromised.
While such vigilance is crucial, good communication and close relationships are the best tools you have to protect your elderly loved ones from these ruthless and despicable criminals.
For more helpful tips or information contact our Senior Care Management company today!