My parents sure don’t act like senior citizens. If you saw them run around my backyard with their first grandchild, Caroline, you’d agree. And it wasn’t long ago that they were working full-time just like me. They were working and saving to care for their family and then to help their kids with college and later to get opportunity to retire and live the good life. They’ve earned it, that’s for sure.
But I still don’t think of them as senior citizens. They’re also good money managers. So why would they need my help? They’re golden right?
Elder financial abuse or exploitation is one of the fastest growing kinds of fraud in America. The National Council on Aging estimates that, while likely under-reported, the costs of fraud to America’s seniors are between $2.9 billion and $36.5 billion, annually. And elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death. So this isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem. And Fortera is here to help. We monitor all accounts for suspicious activity. However, senior scams can be hard to catch and even harder to stop. So we need your help.
Scams targeting seniors are often presented a little differently than scams targeted at younger people. Typically, a senior is more financially secure, although that’s not always the case, and they usually have a savings account somewhere that they can access as needed. Seniors with savings are a honey pot for scammers and they prey on the senior’s emotions to steal from them. Here are the most popular senior scams that we are seeing in the area.
In this kind of scam, the scammer impersonates a grandchild, the IRS, or tech support. The scammer impersonates these people because the senior has built-in trust with them. That’s the hook. From there, the scammer asks for money. They usually ask the senior to wire funds to them to pay taxes or to get out of jail. If the senior can’t send a wire, the scammer will ask the senior to buy gift cards and send the gift card codes as payment. They may even ask the senior to grant them remote access to their computer to “fix a computer virus” while simultaneously installing a keylogger or accessing their online banking account using saved passwords. Whatever the method of getting their money, it’s a scam.
Money mule scammers usually target seniors through social media or online dating. After cultivating the relationship online, professing love and loyalty, and making a lot of promises about meeting in person, the scammer will ask for money. They usually have a deep backstory for the request. Maybe they need money to pay for the visa to return to America or they need to pay the taxes on their luggage. They may even say that they have an emergency abroad and need funds to get home. Whatever it is, it’s a scam.
Seniors are exceptionally generous. Sometimes to a fault. Scammers know this and they make tons of money by placing calls to seniors and asking for donations. They’ll cite well-known charities, and they’ll tell stories about people in need. They’ll also avoid sending out any information about the charity or its legitimacy. Seniors should generally decline to make any donations to charities over the phone, especially if the charity refuses to send them information first. Donations can be made through secure online donation portals or to local charities in person.
Pass It On – More Resources
So, how can you advocate for yourself or your family members and friends? First and foremost, share what you know. Talk about fraud and scams openly and without judgement. The Federal Trade Commission created the Pass It On program, which has a ton of great resources for seniors and senior advocates.
Second, report all senior scams to the Federal Trade Commission. If your accounts at Fortera are affected, you should also report the scam to us. We can help you make sure your account is protected and try to recover your losses, if possible. Depending on the kind of scam that was perpetrated, we can provide guidance on risk mitigation steps going forward.
Third, don’t be ashamed if you fall for a scam. Shame breeds silence and that lets the scammers win. The scammer should be ashamed. They’re stealing. They’re taking advantage. They’re lying. Report them and learn from the experience.