Seniors are often the target of financial scams. Scammers might assume they have large bank accounts or that they'll easily fall for scams. It can also be considered a low-risk crime because it's often difficult to prosecute. Falling for a financial scam can cause you to lose a significant amount of money. Learn more about common scams and how you can protect yourself from them.
Older adults are often targeted in a grandparent scam. The scammer calls an older adult and acts like they're a grandchild. They might call the person grandma or grandpa and ask them if they know who it is. This prompts the older adult to guess which grandchild it is, so the scammer now has a name. When they gain the person's trust, the scammer asks for money for some made-up situation. They also typically ask their "grandparent" not to tell their parents or anyone else. A slight variation is acting like a lawyer or police officer who's calling on behalf of a grandchild and pressures the person to send money to help them.
To avoid falling for this scam, don't send money right away. Instead, hang up and contact your grandchild directly to see if it was them who contacted you. You might also contact your adult child even though your "grandchild" asked you not to.
You could have your bank account compromised when scammers use creative ways to gain access to it. One common way they do this is by calling and pretending to be from your bank. They can even make the phone number on caller ID look like your bank is calling. They ask you to verify your account information, such as your online or mobile banking login, and can then take over your account.
Another strategy is to send you a bad check or cashier's check and have you deposit it. They tell you to keep some of the money and send the rest back to them as a wire transfer. It takes a while for the check to bounce, at which point the money will come out of your account. Meanwhile, you've already transferred money to the scammer, so you're out that money.
To avoid these scams, never give your bank information to someone who calls you, even if it looks like a legitimate call. Always call your bank back or go to a local branch to see if the bank needs you to verify information. Never cash a check for someone else.
Another common type of financial scam is a lottery or sweepstakes scam. You receive notification that you've won a prize, but you have to pay fees or taxes up front. You pay the fees, but you never receive a prize. A variation is the scammer asking for your personal information, which they can use for identity theft.
Beware of anyone contacting you about a prize, especially if you don't remember entering a contest. If you win a legitimate prize, you shouldn't have to pay up front. You should also never give your personal information to someone else, especially if you can't verify that it's a legitimate organization.
Because Medicare is a health insurance program primarily designed for adults 65 and older, seniors can become victims of Medicare scams. The person might pretend to be a representative and ask you for your personal information to commit identity theft. They'll often make up a scenario, such as sending you new cards or keeping your Medicare coverage from canceling, and say you need to verify your information.
Other Medicare scams involve calling you to offer you special services or testing. They ask for your information and then bill Medicare for these fake services that you never receive.
If someone calls you and claims they're a Medicare representative, it's likely a scam. You won't get a call from the government about Medicare; you typically have to call them. If you're not sure, hang up and call Medicare directly. Any calls that offer you special services, free medical supplies or a cheaper Medicare Advantage plan are typically scams. Hang up and don't say anything else to the caller. Never give your personal information to someone who calls you.
Older adults often feel lonely, especially if they've lost their partner. Some scammers take advantage of that loneliness and the desire to find a new partner with sweetheart scams. They might find you via dating sites or social media and get to know you as they act like they're interested in dating. Once you start trusting them or falling for them, they might ask you for money for various reasons.
When dating, use caution when meeting new people. Get to know them well and do research on them. Meet in person in a public place to make sure they're real and match their profile. Staying logical instead of letting yourself get swept up in the romance can help you make better decisions. Avoid giving money to anyone you're dating, even if they match their profile.
While these scams are common, there are many more ways scammers try to take your money. Always be suspicious of phone calls, emails and other forms of contact that you don't initiate, and never give your personal information to strangers.
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