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Point Breeze Credit Union Blog

10 Scams Targeting Older Adults

We all have older adults in our lives that we care about and want to protect. Older adults (60+) tend to be the target of criminals as they are usually financially stable, may be more trusting, and can have problems with memory. So here are 10 scams to look out for to help protect the older adults in your life. 

1.    The Grandparent Scam:

The scammer will call the older person posing as a grandchild saying something to the effect of: “Hey grandma/grandpa, do you know who this is?” When the grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild that the scammer most sounds like, the scammer will then use that fake identity to ask the grandparent for money. They will usually say it’s for something important like rent or car repairs. The scammer will request that the money be paid through MoneyGram or another similar method. To try to ensure they will not be caught the scammer will likely beg the grandparent not to tell their parents.

2.    The Puppy Scam:

Scammers may also prey on elders looking for a pet companion by posting pictures of cute puppies available at very low prices. To lure the older person in even further, the scammer will typically include a sob story about why the puppy needs a new home as soon as possible. Once the elder contacts the “seller” to purchase the puppy, they will request additional money that must all be paid through a wire transfer or prepaid card, for adoption fees, shipping fees, insurance costs, vet care costs, etc. In reality, there was never a puppy – and the victim’s money is gone.

3.    The Tech Support Scam:

Scammers may also pose as a support or service representative offering to help resolve problems related to a financial account, compromised email, software renewal, or a computer virus. They may make contact through a phone call or by way of a computer pop-up warning with a number to call for assistance. The scammer may claim to be from Microsoft or Apple and use a fake caller ID to make them look like they really are from those companies. Once on the phone the scammer will convince the older person to give them remote access to their computer. At that point, they will open system folders and run scans that will seemingly show proof of a problem with the computer. Then they will ask for money for the repairs that need to be made or for service contracts.

4.    Online Romance Scams:

Romance scammers usually create fake profiles on dating websites/apps or on social media sites. They will typically claim to live somewhere outside of the US or claim to be traveling somewhere outside of the US to avoid meeting with the older person. They will try to advance or escalate the relationship quickly by using flattery or by professing their love.  They may also ask to connect outside of the dating app or social media to communicate directly through text. They will make the romance appear real by making plans to meet the older person only to later come up with an excuse so that they can cancel. Once trust has been established the scammer will begin to ask for money for medical expenses, for a trip together, or to come visit. They generally ask for the money to be wired or convince the older person to buy a gift card and then ask them to provide them with the card number.

5.    “The Pigeon Drop”:

With this scam, the perpetrator will usually tell the older person that they found a lot of money and are willing to split the money with them if they make a show of good faith by giving the scammer money to hold on to while they determine how to split up the found money. Once the older person hands over their money the scammer will switch the found money with a look-alike bag or envelope. The scammer will be long gone with the victim’s money by the time they realize that they’ve been given a look-alike.

6.    Email/Phishing Scams:

With this type of scam the victim will receive emails that seem to be from a legitimate or reliable company or financial institution. The emails ask them to update or verify personal information which is then stolen and used to commit fraud. For example, the scammer may make an email appear as if it’s from the IRS requesting personal information for the older person to receive their tax refund. But the IRS doesn’t send these kinds of emails.

7.    Investment Scams:

As adults gets older, they begin to plan for retirement, so scammers tend to target seniors with investment scams like pyramid schemes or stories of a Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money. These scams take advantage of the elderly and often leave them with nothing.

8.    Homeowner Related Scams:

Scammers may attempt to scam homeowners by sending personalized letters to the homeowner(s) seemingly on behalf of the county assessor’s office. In the letter they offer the homeowner a reassessment of their property value and reduction of the tax burden associated with it, for a fee which must be paid in advance. After the payment is made the homeowner never hears from the “assessor’s office” again. Another homeowner related scam is a reverse mortgage scam. With these kinds of scams, the scammer will offer money or a free house in exchange for the title to your property. This scam can be very harmful as it could cause victims to lose their homes.

9.    Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams:

The scammer will tell the victim that they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they must make a payment to cover the taxes before claiming their prize. The scammer will usually send a check of partial payment of the winnings/prize to make the scam more believable. By the time this check bounces, the scammers have already run off with the “tax” payment the senior has given them.

10.    Funeral Scams:

There are two types of funeral scams. The first one involves scammers calling or attending funerals to take advantage of a grieving widow or widower. The scammer will claim that the deceased owed them a debt and try to get money from the relatives at the funeral to settle the debt. The second type of funeral scam involves funeral directors insisting on purchasing an expensive casket even in the case of cremation so that they can get extra money.

Visit our Security Center to learn more helpful tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud.

Source: CUNA Compliance Blog