The United States Special Committee of Aging released a report for the 2018 top scams that affected seniors. The information was based on reports to their toll-free hotline where people shared their issues with fraudsters. There are things users can do to prevent becoming a target or falling victim to scammers, such as the following:
IRS Impersonation scams
If you happen to receive a call that claims to be the IRS, you should hang up the phone immediately. The agency normally contacts people by letter, not using phone calls. A representative of the IRS will never call taxpayers to make demands of payment, requesting prepaid debit cards, gift cards or issuing threats.
Unsolicited phone calls
Users should never give out any personal information whenever an unsolicited phone call comes around. If the caller makes claims that they belong to a government agency or a company that seeks out personal information, hang up the phone immediately and call the phone number of your account. Better yet, call the phone on the agency website to determine whether the request for personal information was a legitimate one or not.
Sweepstakes and Jamaican Lottery Scams
This kind of scam is a popular one, asking people to send money to strangers for a number of alleged reasons, such as taxes and processing fees promising a payoff. Needless to say, users should never send any funds to anyone who makes claims such as these. The US and Jamaican governments are working on eradicating the problem and extraditing the criminals behind these scams, but citizens are advised to stay vigilant.
Computer Tech Support Scams
This is a commonly used scam that involves scammers pretending to be Microsoft or Apple support representatives. They claim your computer has been infected by a virus, followed by directing the user to data or an error message on the computer to "prove" they have remote access. The data or message, however, is one that exists on all computers. There are variants that ask the user to click on a link in an email that loads up ransomware to the victim computer, locking it up and asking for money to get the issue fixed. Avoiding the risk of ransomware is a must, so users should never click on emails of this kind. If you are contacted by third parties suddenly, never give access to your computer. If you have any reason to believe your computer was exposed to an infection, you should find an IT shop or your security software company's support for help.
Elder Financial Scamming
Seniors lose more than 2.9 billion dollars every year due to financial exploitation, according to the Government Accountability Office. Reports show most of the victims are around the ages of 80 to 89, living alone and requiring help with their daily lives. The perpetrators of these crimes often include legal guardians, home care workers, financial advisers, and even family members aside from the usual criminals that reach out via email, phone or over the internet.
Fraudsters out there are using online dating websites to pretend to fall in love with victims online, working their way to earn their trust and to access their money. This is one of the most insidious scams out there, as it takes advantage of the vulnerability and loneliness of the people. Users are advised to be extremely careful with the personal information they entrust to people they meet online or in person.
There are other scams out there, ones that often involve criminals pretending to be a part of the Social Security Administration, local or even national law enforcement, banks and so forth. All of those are usually organizations their victims do business with, so this opens up a window of opportunity for social engineers to worm their way into the life of the victim and to earn their trust. As is the case with the previously mentioned scams, reaching out to the original organization's hotlines and support emails is a good way to investigate the potential scam attempt or simply not following whatever the scammers are attempting.