According to the Financial Fraud Research Center, about $40 billion to $50 billion is lost to scams each year. Con artists' incomes depend on tricking everyone, even you, so they have learned to be more clever each year.
Anyone can be scammed, but the most common group of victims is adults age 65 and older. The FBI says seniors are more likely to have a large sum of savings or high credit score, which attracts thieves. The FBI adds that baby boomers and those of the silent generation were raised to be "polite and trusting," which scammers use to their advantage.
Although there are countless types of scams, the National Council of Aging says the following types of deceptions are directed at older adults:
- The Placebo Effect: Seniors purchase a discounted medication through the internet and discover the medication is not what they ordered, or it is a harmful drug.
- The Faux Grandchild: Seniors receive a frantic phone call from a "grandchild," who needs money for bail, car repairs, overdue rent, etc. Seniors wire money to them via Western Union or MoneyGram and promise not to tell the "grandchild's parents." Usually the scammer asks, "Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who this is?" When the victim replies with a name of a grandchild, the caller assumes that identity.
- The No Money Lottery or Sweepstakes: Seniors receive a letter or phone call that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they must mail in a check to "unlock" their prize. Or, the fake lottery-sweepstakes might send a check to be deposited.
Then, when seniors see the money is in their account, the scammers ask for payment for "fees" or "taxes" on the prize money. While the con artists collect the money, the check bounces.
- The Bad Samaritan Charity: Frauds posing as volunteers call seniors and ask for money donations or ask them to buy an item, saying the cost goes directly to a "charity." More likely it goes to the thieves' pockets.
- Recently, there has also been an uptick in IRS scams. The scam consists of a caller contacting the senior citizen and pretending to be an IRS agent. The caller then demands money for unpaid taxes.
If you feel you or your loved one has received a call like this, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
If any of these examples sound familiar to you or your loved one, seek help. Call your bank if money was taken from your account, notify the local police and contact the National Consumers League's fraud program at www.fraud.org or 1-800-876-7060.
James Wogsland, MBA and Certified Senior Advisor, is co-owner of ComForCare Home Care, and chairman of the Beaufort County Walk to End Alzheimer's. JWogsland @ComForCare.com; www.HiltonHead. ComForCare.com