This is a continuation in a series focusing on scams and crimes targeting older adults and the elderly. Did you read the last article? If not, check it out here! How to Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors: Part 1. Today we’ll be sharing even more resources to help you stay protected and knowledgeable.
Stealing from the Grieving
What to look out for: Widows and widowers are told that their spouse had outstanding debts that must be settled. Sometimes, the scammer may appear at the victim’s doorstep with a pay-on-delivery package that was supposedly ordered by the deceased. The con artists find widowed spouses by browsing public obituary listings or snooping at funeral homes. Sometimes the funeral home is the perpetrator and tacks on additional fees or pushes unnecessary items, such as an expensive casket for a cremation.
Risks: The bereaved can be scammed out of money or upsold on funeral expenses.
Helpful resources: AARP offers tips about how to avoid scams after the death of a loved one.
What to look out for: Sometimes referred to as the “sweetheart” scam, fraudsters target widowers using online dating sites in an attempt to form a trusting relationship and then take advantage. The con artists may make up a heartbreaking story and ask for financial assistance, request that the target be a cosignatory for a loan, or even convince the target to sign over power of attorney, allowing the perpetrator to take out a home equity loan.
Risks: Victims face a loss of funds and risk being saddled with unwanted debts. Identity theft is also possible.
Helpful resources: AARP offers an in-depth look at online dating scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Reverse Mortgage Scams
What to look out for: Many people’s life savings are tied to the equity in their homes, a prime target for thieves. Reverse mortgages are a popular way for seniors to take cash out of their homes without having to move. Scams related to this sometimes-useful tool come in many forms, from fees hidden in the fine print to failure to disclose the consequences of unexpected default.
Risks: Victims can lose their homes, or be subject to excessive fees.
Helpful resources: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a consumer advisory about the dangers of reverse mortgages.
What to look out for: In this scenario, scammers case a neighborhood looking for elderly residents and then knock on the door posing as handymen. They point out a few things that they insist need repair. Payment may be demanded up front, and if the work is done at all, it’s often unlicensed and sloppy.
Risks: Homeowners stand to lose the upfront payment and face damage to their property due to shoddy workmanship.
Helpful resources: The FTC offers tips to help people, especially seniors, avoid home-improvement scams.
What to look out for: Online scams don’t necessarily target seniors, but people less familiar with technology are more susceptible. Phishing, the attempt to steal sensitive information online by posing as someone else, is a popular trick. Emails from supposedly official organizations, including governments and large businesses, ask recipients to change their passwords, update account information, or pay an outstanding debt. Sometimes, simply clicking on a link is enough to infect a computer with malicious software that can steal personal information.
Risks: The scammers can come away with access to the victim’s accounts and identity, along with a quick payday.
Helpful resources: The FTC offers advice on how to avoid phishing scams.
What to look out for: Scammers sometimes claim to be calling from a bank’s fraud-prevention department and request information like a credit card security code or expiration date. Even if the caller ID looks like it’s from a bank, don’t be fooled. Never share personal or financial data.
Risks: Victims face the immediate loss of money from their accounts, with the potential for even costlier identity theft.
Helpful resources: AARP offers advice about avoiding fraud-prevention scams.
Tech Support Scam
What to look out for: Scammers often pose as representatives from software or computer companies and announce they’ve identified viruses or other problems with a person’s computer. They then try to sell the victim bogus software, offer to “run a scan,” or ask for permission to access the computer.
Risks: Victims face potential identity theft and harm to their computer.
Helpful resources: The FTC maintains a page dedicated specifically to tech support scams.
If you suspect that you’ve been the victim of a scam:
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing will only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at: https://eldercare.acl.gov.