May 16, 2017

Older adults lose billions of dollars to scammers each year. The latest financial scams prey on seniors through email, phone calls, and even mailed letters from scammers hoping to gain access to their hard-earned retirement savings. You can’t prepare for a scam that you don’t know about, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the most popular scams targeting older adults.

IRS Impersonation Scam

This winter, suspected scammers from the U.S. and India telephoned Americans and posed as IRS agents. These con artists threatened to arrest unless tax debts were paid immediately, and at least 1.97 million people were targeted with the phone call this year alone. Starting this year, IRS and four collection companies will reach out to individuals who have failed to pay their taxes for years through mail and phone calls, making it difficult to determine whether the call is coming from an IRS agent or a scammer. However, legitimate IRS agents will not demand immediate payment through gift cards, wire transfer, or ask for your bank or credit card information over the phone. The private collection firms are permitted to facilitate payment electronically or by check but only to the IRS or U.S. Treasury. You can find out more about this scam and check your balance on the IRS website.

The Grandparents Scam

Another common scam is known as the “Grandparents Scam,” in which fraudsters call older adults with phony claims that a grandchild is in trouble and needs to be sent money to pay for things like a medical bill, a plane ticket home, or even to gain release from jail. These scam artists can gain grandchildren’s names from emails, social networking sites, or online directories, enabling them to make the phone calls very detailed and personal. Experts advise being wary of suspicious calls from unknown numbers asking for money. If you receive a call that mimics the grandparents scam, hang up and call other family members for assistance.

Technical Support Scams

Today’s criminals also use technology to scam vulnerable adults into providing their personal or financial information over the Internet. Often, cybercriminals will send an email posing as a reputable tech company, and will use scare tactics to convince seniors they have a virus or malware on their computer. The scammer may then request remote access to the computer to install software and scan for the virus in return for online payment. In reality, nothing is wrong with the computer, but scammers can steal thousands of dollars from their victims. If you receive a suspicious email or phone call from a tech support company asking for your credit card information, it’s best to ignore their requests and report your case to an anti-fraud agency.

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