Ask anyone about their grandparents and they will likely smile and recall fond memories from their childhood. Grandparents nurture and care for their grandchildren, while spoiling them every once in a while. That’s why the first Sunday after Labor Day is celebrated as National Grandparents Day.
As we celebrate these wonderful family members, the holiday provides us with an opportunity to pay back their kindness. That’s because we can use the holiday to help them understand the unique risks of fraud facing today’s seniors — educating them on how to avoid scams and prevent identity theft.
The FBI recently reported that older Americans lost more than $1 billion. Seniors are a favorite target of identity thieves because they often have strong credit histories and less debt. If we all become aware of the scams commonly used to target the elderly, we can help our parents, grandparents, and older relatives know how to spot fraud and what to do if they suspect a scam.
Common Scams that Target Senior Citizens
The National Council on Aging reports that there are certain scams that target older adults and put them at risk of fraud. Among the most common are:
- Grandparent Scams: Grandparent scams are particularly devious because they exploit the love of a grandparent for their grandchild. The scam involves calling a senior and starting the conversation by saying, “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” If the victim has a grandchild that sounds like the caller, they usually guess that name — giving the scammer an identity to work with. They’ll then ask the grandparent for help, saying they are in financial trouble and need money right away. When the money is wired or a prepaid gift card is sent, the money is gone for good.
- Medicare and Health Insurance Scams: Every U.S. citizen over age 65 is eligible for Medicare, creating a large pool of potential victims for identity thieves who specialize in health insurance fraud. Sometimes they’ll pretend to be Medicare representatives and call seniors to ask for personal information, which unwary seniors give. Other times, the scammers set up temporary mobile clinics that offer fake services so they can both collect personal information and falsely bill Medicare.
- Email Scams: Many seniors are not particularly tech-savvy, which leaves them vulnerable to online scammers and con artists. Phishing emails frequently target the elderly, with the fraudsters posing as the IRS, a local company, a bank, or another legitimate contact. They’ll ask the senior to verify or update their account information, tricking the victims into divulging their personal information. Legitimate organizations will rarely ask for personal information via e-mail, so seniors should delete such requests.
- Romance and Dating Scams: Lonely seniors increasingly use internet dating and social media to make romantic connections. Unfortunately, scammers can prey on their desire for companionship. A romance scammer will create a fake profile and begin a “relationship” with their victim. Often, they claim to be overseas and persuade their victim to send money for visas and travel expenses so they can visit the U.S. to meet in person.
Protecting Seniors Against Identity Theft
When you were young and impressionable, your grandparents likely shared their experience and knowledge to help keep you safe. Now it is important that you return the favor.
By taking the time to talk to the seniors in your life about these senior scams and how they could be affected, you are doing them a great favor. Encourage your loved ones to learn about these scams, understand how and why fraudsters steal their information, and ensure they are ready to face today’s cyberthreats to older people.