Consumer Affairs’ most recent reports say that seniors are scammed out of more than $3 billion each year, with each victim losing an average of $34,200.
If you’ve been scammed, there are things you can do about it. Take care of yourself by keeping in touch with your loved ones and, if you need to, by getting help from professionals. You should also tell the police and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about what happened.
Help prevent other people from becoming victims by spreading the word. By learning about these costly and dangerous scams and taking steps to stop them, you can help protect yourself and others.
The internet has changed how we live and work by giving us access to information and opportunities like never before. But it has also given criminals more chances to do bad things.
According to the most recent numbers, 92,371 people over 60 were victims of internet crime in 2021 and lost a total of $1.7 billion. This is a 74% increase from 2020, meaning that each victim will lose an average of $18,246.
The Federal Trade Commission says that older people are much more likely than younger people to report fraud, even if they haven’t lost any money. It may be because older people are more likely to catch fraud right away and report it.
Younger adults, however, are more likely to lose money to scams before they realize what’s going on. Most of the fraud reports that seniors file with the FTC don’t involve any loss of money, and this shows that seniors are usually good at spotting internet scams. So, if you are a senior, keep this trend going by telling the authorities about any suspicious online activity.
Seniors who say they lost money tend to lose more money than younger people who say they lost money.
From 2019 to 2022, more older adults were victims of fraud, and those 80 years old and older lost the most money. People 80 and older who reported a financial loss said it cost them an average of $1,800. Compared to previous years, this is a significant increase.
Seniors lost twice as much as people in their twenties and thirties and almost four times as much as other age groups. Partly because there is a tendency for the elderly to be more trusting, They are less likely to question personal information requests or large amounts of money that come out of the blue. Scammers take advantage of this by putting a lot of pressure on their victims to get them to act quickly without thinking.
Every day, scammers find new ways to steal money from people, and seniors are often their targets. Unfortunately, this can cause a lot of money to be lost. Most of the money stolen from seniors aged 70 to 79 comes from investment scams. On average, each senior loses $17,172.
Seniors are most likely to fall for scams involving telemarketing. Seniors are twice as likely to buy something over the phone as other people, which makes them easy targets for con artists.
Scammers who work in telemarketing will call seniors and try to get them to buy something or give out personal information. They might threaten to arrest, foreclose on, or deport victims if they don’t do what they want.
Seniors also often fall for scams online. Scammers will make fake websites or apps that look like the real thing to get you to enter your personal information. It can be hard to spot these cons, so you must be careful when you’re on the phone or online.
Here are the most common scams that target older people.
Fake plans for health insurance
One of the most common scams that takes advantage of seniors is when dishonest companies say they are selling all-inclusive health plans. They lie and say they are experts who sell government-sponsored health insurance plans. Some even say they are part of AARP or sell Medicare supplement insurance plans, and they even make websites that look official.
In reality, these companies plans aren’t very good and don’t cover everything. Some plans are not insurance but discount plans for medical care, which don’t cover enough.
Some scammers run fake technical support businesses advertised on the internet to people who need technical support or to help recover their passwords.
When people click on one of these ads, they are given choices for diagnostic tests. These fake tests will show that their computers have viruses when they don’t. These companies use this “test” to persuade seniors that they need to buy a service plan to get rid of these viruses and stop more problems. Seniors who don’t know about this scam and still buy these service plans put their money at risk when they give their credit card information to pay.
Robocall to Lower Credit Card Interest
Scammers behind these robocalls say they can help seniors get their credit card interest rates as low as 0%. They say that they must confirm and collect some information to make this discount work.
In this scam, people are tricked into giving out their credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal information. They use this information to apply for credit cards in the names of real people without their permission.
Consumers who get new credit cards with lower interest rates often get promotional rates that are low for a short time but will eventually go up. Bank or transaction fees can be very expensive for consumers.
Business Opportunity Schemes
“Take care of yourself. Have fun in your old age. Get rid of your boss and build the life you want.” These are just a few of the claims you might have seen in ads for business opportunity scams. People who buy their programs or sign up for their services can make a lot of money quickly, but these ads don’t prove this.
In reality, people pay thousands of dollars for programs that don’t work and don’t get their money back. Not only have many seniors lost a lot of money, but they have also taken out loans or used their credit cards to pay for these scams.
Money Transfer Systems Fraud
Con artists use different kinds of money transfer system scams to steal money from people who don’t know what’s happening. Some people may say they can help you send money overseas for a fee. Some people will tell you that you’ve won a lottery or cash prize and need to send them money for taxes and processing fees. Some con artists pretend to be charity workers who want you to send them money as a donation.
Scammers also often pretend to be sellers on auction sites like eBay when they try to steal money this way. When a person buys something and pays for it with a money transfer, the seller takes the money but doesn’t send the product.
Real Estate Scams
Some con artists steal money from seniors by making fake real estate deals. These fake businesses say they are selling lots for building homes in new, high-end neighborhoods in other countries, usually in Central America. They say that these new communities will have high-end features like golf courses. They also say that the prices of the lots will go up quickly because these developments will be finished soon, giving buyers a lot of equity.
These scammers often have colorful brochures that show how nice the developments are, but in reality, the land is far from utilities, in the middle of nowhere, or not worth a fraction of the price paid. Scammers will sometimes use fake papers to sell land they don’t own.
Negative Option Marketing
Companies are giving away free samples of their products to people who pay for the shipping and handling costs. After people who don’t know what they’re doing sign up for these free products, scammers sign them up without their permission for a plan to automatically send them more products at full price. People are sometimes charged full price if they don’t cancel these free trials quickly enough.
Fraudsters who are dishonest have also used this method to steal money from consumers by charging them for extra products they didn’t even buy. These con artists sell personal care items, products to help you lose weight, nicotine patches, and subscription programs.
Health and anti-aging claims
Fraudsters often target seniors by selling fake anti-aging products that promise miraculous results. These include fake Botox alternatives, face creams, youth serums, and stem cell therapy treatments. Some companies say things that can’t be proven, like that their products can help cure diseases like Parkinson’s and macular degeneration.
When people don’t know what they’re getting into, they can spend a few thousand dollars on expensive anti-aging treatments only to discover that they need more treatments to get the desired results. Some anti-aging products are sugar pills, and others may have harmful chemicals like formaldehyde.
The best way to spot a scam and report it
Here are some tips to help you stay safe from scammers and keep you from falling for one.
Question what companies say and why they say it. Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. Companies that say their products can cure diseases, do miracles, make you look younger, or put you in a luxury development in paradise are most likely scams.
Don’t divulge information about yourself or your finances over the phone.
If someone calls you and says they are from your bank or credit card company, don’t give out any information. Request their phone number so you can call them back. At this point, most scammers hang up. Remember that they already know your personal information if you do business with a company, agency, or creditor.
Don’t buy anything from people who call you to sell things.
Whenever someone tries to sell you something or get money for a charity over the phone, you should tell them that you don’t buy things or give money over the phone and that you need information in writing.
Get on the Do Not Call List.
This is a free national list that telemarketers can’t use to contact you. You can stop these calls by registering your home phone or cell phone. Since the registry doesn’t cover charities, debt collectors, or political groups, you could still get calls from them.
Remember that even people close to you could hurt you.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says that family members are responsible for more than 90% of the financial abuse of elders. Fraud can come from anyone, not just strangers, and many members, including adult children and grandchildren, drain joint bank accounts and steal assets from their relatives who are elderly.
Monitor your bank and credit card accounts.
Every month, check your bank and credit card statements for any charges you didn’t make. You should contact your credit card company immediately if you see any unusual activity on your credit card. If you have any concerns about your bank account, you should contact your bank.
If you have been scammed, you should let the FTC know about it. When someone files a complaint, investigators can get the information they need to find scammers and stop them from hurting others. The FTC can be reached by phone or online:
FTC: (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or TTY: (866) 653-4261 ftc.gov/complain