The elderly are targeted by scammers more than any other group. While most people know to ignore unsolicited or “too good to be true” offers, seniors tend to have more time and are more trusting than most. That’s music to a scammer’s ears! Here are 5 scams seniors, in particular, should watch out for.
1. The computer virus scam: This is an all too common computer scam in which a user’s computer will “freeze up” with a scary-looking message that pops up saying something like “20 viruses were detected on your PC, download this virus cleaner now to save your data!” This is a scam, but it’s one that scares many people, especially seniors who think their private data might be vulnerable. This scam usually directs users to a phone number to call to speak to a “tech” who will instruct them on how to “unfreeze” their computer and remove the viruses. Naturally, for a fee.
2. Unusual account activity scam: This scam starts with an email designed to get the recipient to take immediate action to secure their account. They’re informed their account has been accessed from a new browser or device and told that they’re required to login to confirm their identity and remove limitations that have been placed on the account. A link is included to allow them to do that. When clicked, the user is taken to a fake bank or credit card site where they are required to enter data such as date of birth, credit card number, security code, and expiration date, etc. to restore their account. While banks and credit cards do send out legitimate “unusual activity” alerts, rarely will they ask you to re-submit sensitive data.
3. The COVID-19 scam: With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new scam texts and emails being sent out to the elderly specifically due to their higher risk of contracting the virus. The message will send a link saying they have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and when clicked they will be asked to provide personal information. This has become a common scam during the pandemic, and it’s important to warn seniors you know.
4. Utility bill scam: In this scam, the senior will receive a call from someone claiming to be a representative of your utility company or energy provider. They will insist you’re behind on your payments and your account is delinquent. They often threaten to shut off your electricity or water immediately, usually within the hour or that same day if you don’t pay up. Then they ask you to send them money directly to expedite the process.
5. Family members scam: Unfortunately over 90% of elderly abuse comes from their own family. If one family member insists on taking over the bank account to help the elder, you begin to notice new expensive purchases, or if that family member begins to become hostile or avoids conversations about the senior’s finances, they may be hiding something and it’s a good idea to investigate further for the sake of the senior who is typically trusting of the individual and unaware of any misconduct.
Most people, not just seniors, who fall for these scams are typically too embarrassed to admit they’ve been suckered. So, keep an eye on the senior’s emotions. If they seem out of sorts, scared, angry, or anxious, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with them about any kind of potential scam they could have fallen into. Scammers are shameless and have no sympathy for their victims. They are also ruthless and will say and do anything to get what they want. So, it’s up to you to educate yourself and your family members, especially seniors, to be extra vigilant of unsolicited offers and offers of “help.” While some may be legitimate, most of the time, if something seems too good to be true, it is.