It seems like you can’t turn on the TV news or visit your favorite news website without seeing yet another story about financial scams.
According to the FBI, seniors lose more than $3 billion every year to con artists.
Let’s examine some of the most common financial scams.
The government impostor scam is probably the most common one around. In this one, the scammer calls their target and pretends to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration, Medicare, or something similar.
They may tell you that you have unpaid taxes and will be arrested if you don’t pay up. Or they may suggest your Social Security or Medicare benefits are about to be cut off unless you provide personal information.
Some fraudsters are so sophisticated they can even make the phone number they’re calling from appear to be the actual number of the agency they’re pretending to represent.
THE GRANDPARENT SCAM
With the grandparent scam, the bad guy will call an older person and say, “hi grandpa, do you know who this is?” Once the grandpa throws out a name, the fraudster says “yes” and pretends to be that person. And from there, it’s off to the criminal races.
The crook will request money for an unexpected expense like a car repair or overdue rent and they’ll ask the grandparent to promise they won’t tell anyone. And, because these scammers typically ask to be paid by wire transfer or gift cards, once the money is gone, it’s generally gone for good.
Because every American 65 or older automatically receives Medicare, scammers already have an easy in to try their con. In this scam, the crook will typically pose as a Medicare representative requesting personal information like a Social Security number, date of birth, bank account, or something similar.
But ask yourself why someone from Medicare would be calling you for your birthday or Social Security number. After all, if you’re already enrolled in Medicare, isn’t it obvious they already have your personal information? If something feels off during a conversation it probably means something really is off.
With computer scams, the crook preys on the fact that some older folks feel intimidated by modern technology. When you’re working on your computer, a pop-up message or a black screen will suddenly appear telling you your device needs repair. When you call the number that’s given to you, the fraudster will either request remote access to your computer or will demand payment for a repair.
If you receive this message and aren’t comfortable dealing with it yourself, turn off your computer and ask a trusted family member or friend for help. You can also take it to a repair service like Geek Squad.
Many people are familiar with lottery scams because they tend to get a fair amount of media attention.
In this scheme, fraudsters tell their would-be victim that they’ve hit it big with a lottery or sweepstakes, but they need to make a payment to unlock the prize. Once that payment is made, it’s common for the victim to be sent a check that looks legit, but a few days after deposit, the check is revealed to be worthless.
But guess what? The crooks have already made off with the money you paid them and you’re also on the hook for any fees that may come along with that bounced check.
The next common scam — internet, email, and text message phishing scams — is a doozy because there are just so many different ways scammers can use it. Again, because some older folks aren’t entirely comfortable with technology, they’ve become common marks for this particular fraud.
Email and text message phishing scams are particularly prevalent. Within this con, the scammer crafts a message that looks nearly exactly like something you’d receive from a company or business you trust requesting your personal information or asking you to update your credit card payment.
If you get an email or text from what appears to be your bank or credit card company but something about it just doesn’t seem right, find their contact number and give them a call. In a matter of minutes, they’ll be able to tell you whether the message is on the level.
Don’t forget that your bank, credit card companies, and other institutions work for you, you don’t work for them. The least they can do is answer your questions and address your concerns when you think somebody may be scamming you.
REACH OUT FOR HELP
If you work with a financial services professional, you should reach out to them immediately when you think someone is trying to scam you. When it comes to your money, your financial pro is going to be able to smell a rat from a mile away.