Take Good Care and Protect Yourself Against Common Scams
Unfortunately, older adults are one of the most highly targeted groups for scams, identity theft, and fraud. The American Journal of Public Health estimates that about 5% of seniors in the United States suffer from a scam of some sort every year. This amounts to the loss of approximately $3 billion annually by senior citizens living in this country.
Anyone can become a victim of financial exploitation, but often scammers are known to target seniors for several reasons:
- Older adults tend to be more trusting of others, especially those who claim to be looking out for them.
- Older adults often have considerable accumulations of savings, valuable possessions, and other assets, making them prime targets for scammers.
- Older adults tend to be less tech-savvy than younger people, making them easier to scam online, on social media, or over the phone.
- Many older adults have memory issues and get confused about who they’re talking to or who they should trust.
- Many older adults fear that they may lose their independence or be seen as incompetent if people know they have been scammed, so some do not report or seek out help after being scammed.
As you can imagine, being scammed does not feel good. After falling victim to a scam, seniors have reported physical and emotional problems, inability to recover financially, loss of independence, diminished quality of life, increased worry, loss of self-esteem, and feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, and hurt.
At McGregor, we are passionate about helping seniors pursue wellness in all areas of their lives, including the financial. As such, we wanted to offer the following 7 tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to a scam:
Here are 7 Tips to Protect Yourself Against Common Senior Scams
- Know the Common Scams that Target Seniors.
Know the warning signs for typical scams. There are many scams that target older adults, but the five most common in our region are expanded on here:
- Government Impersonation Scams involve a fraudster claiming to represent a government agency, such as Medicare, Social Security, or the IRS. When the fraudster contacts you, they will usually tell you that you owe money and then threaten to arrest or fine you if you do not immediately provide payment or sensitive personal information.
- Grandchild Scams involve a fraudster claiming to be your grandchild or another family member in need. After gaining your trust, scammers will usually tell you that they are in jail and they need money for bail, or that they recently came upon hard times and need your money to get through it.
- Lottery Scams involve a fraudster claiming that you won a lottery or sweepstakes and that you need to pay them a fee to claim your winnings, which never come.
- Investment Scams involve a fraudster asking you to invest in their company, which they describe as “low-risk, high-reward.” When you give them the desired funds, they run off with your money and you never hear from them again.
- Fake Virus Scams involve a message or email notifying you that your computer has a virus and prompting you to download antivirus software to fix the problem. When you download the “antivirus” software, it installs a virus on your computer that sends your sensitive information, such as account numbers and passwords, back to the fraudster to steal your identity.
- Be Suspicious of Any Unsolicited Call or Message.
Scammers will often urge you to act immediately, without stopping to think about the situation. A little bit of suspicion can save a lot of heartache later. Take a breather and ask yourself, “Does this make sense?” and “Would this person normally say or send me something like this?” before responding, clicking on links, or taking action.
Hang up or delete the message right away if the caller threatens to arrest you or freeze your accounts, asks for personal information or computer access, or demands that you pay them immediately via gift cards, money wires, or cryptocurrency.
- Ask Many Questions.
Ask as many questions as you can and look for fallacies and inconsistencies in what the potential scammer says. If they continually change their offer and what they are saying, they are likely a scammer.
- Verify Information with a Trusted Source.
If you believe someone is trying to scam you, ask someone you know you can trust to confirm any claims made by a potential scammer. Reaching out to your doctors, your government officials, your bank, or even family members and friends to verify the claims made by a potential scammer can help you to avoid falling victim to a scam. Never send personal information or money without verifying the validity of the request.
- Check Your Accounts Often.
Regularly checking your bank account and other important accounts will give you the chance to react quickly and report unusual activity. The earlier you report unusual activities on your account, the more likely you are to get your money back.
- If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Usually Is.
It is easy to believe in a scam if it seems to be an answer to prayer but be very wary. If someone presents you with an unbelievable deal, it is probably a scam.
- If You Believe You Have Been Scammed, Report It Immediately.
Report potential scams to the proper authorities as soon as possible so that they can get you the help you need and take action to prevent more people from being scammed in the future.
Holidays are another time when people are targeted, so be aware!
For more information:
A list of phone numbers to call at local, state, and federal levels is below:
- Cuyahoga County Scam Squad – 216-443-SCAM (7226)
- Cuyahoga County Senior & Adult Services – 216-420-6700
- Cleveland Local Better Business Bureau – 216-241-7678
- Ohio Attorney General – 1-800-282-0515
- Federal Trade Commission – 1-877-382-4357
- Senate Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline – 1-855-303-9470
McGregor works with many partners in the industry to build connectivity in healthcare information management which will provide integrated care delivery solutions with our peer organizaitons while optimizing resources and generating value.