4 Common Scams Targeting Older Adults and How to Recognize Them

Scammers are targeting people every day in ways you may not recognize. They target all age groups, but the most at-risk age community is seniors. Some target elders because they often have more net worth. Based on a CNBC report, the median household net worth in the U.S. is $121,700, but it’s almost double that for those in their late 50s and early 60s.

Older adults are most vulnerable to financial scammers around retirement age. Some scammers target low-income, financially vulnerable seniors—a group likely to fall for such idyllic offers. While most scammers are strangers, in some cases, they’re friends or family.

Here are four common scams seniors should look out for:

1. Imposter Scams

Imposter scams are one of the most common amongst seniors. They tend to impersonate an important person that you trust, such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration. Imposter scammers call to trick you into sharing personal information like your bank information, password, or your social security number. They also pretend to be someone you know personally to persuade you into sharing confidential information. According to consumer.gov, imposters may call and say:

  • They’re calling from a tech support company about a problem with your computer

  • You owe money to the IRS or another government agency

  • You just won a prize but you have to pay fees to get the prize

  • A friend is in trouble and needs your help

In some cases, victims of these scams are threatened with legal actions if they don’t follow directions. In other cases, imposter scammers may call from an unknown caller ID or a scam-likely caller ID. Unfortunately, these scams often end with a large amount of stolen money that you are highly unlikely to get back. That’s why it’s important to recognize scams and never share personal information or wire money. As a reminder, the IRS will never ask for personal information through the phone, so if you get a call that claims to be the IRS asking for this, hang up immediately and report it to the FTC.

2. Medicare Scams

Medicare scams involve imposters that pretend to be medical representatives trying to get elders’ personal or medical information. Scammers also may call to provide Medicare benefits and discounted plans that aren’t truly medically insured. Coinciding websites that appear trustworthy are also often used to trick elders that aren’t tech-savvy.

If you receive a call from a person claiming to be Medicare personnel asking for your social security number or similar signs, call your insurance company or Medicare to ensure you haven’t been scammed.

3. Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction Scams

Credit card scams are mostly robocalls that target seniors by offering them interest rate reductions on their credit cards to help pay off debt. They will even offer zero interest rates to trick you into acting fast by paying a fee. In some instances scammers will run a check deposit scam, presenting seniors with a fraudulent loan advertisement that results in a check being deposited for a loss. In other instances, scammers claim that they only need to confirm your credit card information to complete the offer. Robocall scams tend to ask for credit card numbers, social security numbers, and related personal information. These scams may affect your long-term financial options. For instance, if you truly are interested in paying off debt by consolidating it through a personal loan, you’ll need to meet a minimum loan credit score. However, your ability to do so after succumbing to this type of scam may be very difficult due to the impact they have on your credit score.

Be careful when sharing your credit card information, especially with companies claiming to lower interest rates. Sharing your personal information with the wrong person could be detrimental to your credit history and future finances.

4. Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams are the most common for seniors.  This method aims to deceive elders through technology because they assume seniors have little to no technology or cybersecurity knowledge. A pop-up message could appear on your computer saying your device is at risk of a virus or your documents are encrypted by providing a number. When you call the number, they ask for information to access your computer or for you to pay to fix the problem. It’s important to avoid opening the pop-ups that want to “help” you.

It’s unsettling to know that these four common scams target vulnerable seniors and abuse their unfamiliarity to commit fraud. These scams can cause significant financial loss to many elders. It’s crucial to look for signs and protect yourself, your personal information, and your money. It’s also beneficial to help any family member that may be a victim of money scammers by providing them with the necessary knowledge needed.