- Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
- People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
- Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
- When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.
- Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim."
One of the most pervasive scams aimed at seniors has been dubbed The Grandparents Scam. In this scam, someone impersonates a grandchild or claims to be "holding" a grandchild and they ask or demand money. Once received, they never call back, and the victim soons finds out from the grandchild themselves that there was no such need.
We will be exploring more about scams against seniors through this month, as it is Financial Literacy Month. Here are a few resources for more on scams:
- "Scams Cheat Older Americans Out of Almost $3 Billion a Year. He's What to Watch For", Maggie Fitzgerald, February 13, 2019, CNBC.com
- "Top Internet Scams Affecting the Elderly", April 2019, Aging In Place
- "Scams to Watch Out for in 2019", Brandy Bauer, January 24, 2019, National Council on Aging
Educate Yourself - The first answer to that question is through knowledge and education. We need to learn about what scams are out there. What are the signs? Who are they targeting? How can you tell if someone who calls is a scammer?
Make an Appropriate Contact List - As we learn more about what the most popular scams are out there and what signs we might look for that would raise our suspicions, we can make a list of appropriate contacts. Appropriate contacts means a list of people, organizations, and contact info for the different authorities that would deal with different types of scams. For instance, our first line is local authorities, the police department in our towns. Another might be the state authorities or the regional FBI office. Your local police department may have a list of hotline numbers to call that relate to different scams being perpuated. If you find yourself targeted, or suspect you're being called by a scammer, you will have some ready information on who to call.
Protect Yourself - Cover yourself with identity theft protection, like Lifelock. If a suspected scammer phone number comes up on your phone, block it. Make sure your computer, laptop, and other devices are protected and up-to-date with antivirus.