The holidays always provide great opportunities for families and friends to get together. The Better Business Bureau® (BBB) has an infographic you can use to educate senior clients, family, and friends about scams that target seniors. It lists five scams they should know about.
1. Phony Websites
Pop-ups are everywhere anytime you access the internet. Not all the advertisements and links are legitimate. Some lead to websites that are designed to steal your financial information. Be particularly cautious when making online purchases by always verifying that the website is secure and encrypted before you make purchases.
2. Free Trials
Who doesn’t love something you can get for free? Although it’s nice to save money, be careful of anything being advertised as a free trial with a small shipping fee. The company is still capturing your credit or debit card information to put towards the shipping fee. With your financial information on file, you may unknowingly get enrolled and charged for numerous product offers which are difficult to cancel.
3. Charity Scams
Not every charity mailer or online ad is from a legitimate charity. Find out where and how your donation will be used before you give. Visit give.org to research the charity for legitimacy and transparency.
4. Grandparent Scam
Grandparents will do almost anything for their grandkids and criminals know this very well. A senior will receive a call or email from someone who is claiming to be their grandchild and will ask for the senior to wire money to them immediately. The Office of the Illinois Attorney General provides this flyer with additional information about the scam.
5. Fake Profiles on Social Media
Ever get a friend request from someone you’re already friends with on Facebook? About 60 million Facebook accounts are fakes. And many of those fake accounts belong to hackers. How can you spot a fake? Be cautious of accepting friend requests from someone who uses inanimate objects, celebrities, or a stolen image from a person you know as their profile picture.
Here are a few more scams that were not included on the BBB infographic but are important to be aware of.
6. Tropical Investment Scam
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently posted a warning regarding a tropical investment scam targeting Americans who hope to retire and live abroad. Developers were reportedly selling lots in a remote jungle as a luxurious resort community. But the FTC alleges that instead the developers pocketed the investors’ money and have built barely anything.
7. Reverse Mortgage Scams
A reverse mortgage, also known as home equity conversion mortgages (HECM), can be a useful tool for a qualified candidate who is looking to age in place. But there are fraudsters looking to use this tool to take advantage of unsuspecting seniors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation offers tips for avoiding this type of scam. You can also use this flyer from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General for additional tips.
8. Medicare Drug Scam
Scammers representing themselves as government or insurance company representatives try to talk Medicare beneficiaries into revealing their Medicare number and other sensitive information. The scammers use this information to charge a “one-time” fee of $299. The Office of the Illinois Attorney General provides this flyer with additional information about the scam.
9. Social Security Benefits Scam
Identity thieves will call, email, or send a letter asking for personal data to steal your identity and money. In this scam after they have obtained your information they contact the Social Security Administration to request that your payment are rerouted to their accounts. The Office of the Illinois Attorney General provides this flyer with additional information about the scam.
10. IRS Scam
If you get a call from someone saying that they are with the IRS, just hang up! The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. This flyer from the Office of the Illinois Attorney General will give you additional tips on how to handle these types of calls.
Take advantage of this time of year when visiting with seniors to educate them and help prevent them from becoming a victim of a scam.
Sources: “Scams Targeting Seniors Holiday Edition,” Better Business Bureau®, “How to Avoid the Grandparent Scam,” Illinois Attorney General, “Fake Social Media Accounts,” Social Media Club Inc., “FTC Warns of Tropical Real Estate Scam Targeting Retirees,” REALTOR® Magazine (Dec. 12, 2018), “Reverse Mortgage," Investopedia, “Reverse Mortgage Scams,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Reverse Mortgages,” Illinois Attorney General, “The $299 Medicare Prescription Drug Scam,” Illinois Attorney General, “Social Security Benefits Scam Targets Seniors,” Illinois Attorney General, “Beware of IRS Imposters,” Illinois Attorney General.