Scams targeting older adults are on the rise and can present an enormous threat to an older adult’s security, both financially and emotionally. Seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Aging-adult fraud victims may suffer long-lasting trauma that often erodes their sense of trust and well-being, eldercare experts have noted.
Three crimes, in particular, are on the rise, according to fraud protection groups. These are Social Security fraud, the grandparent scam and unscrupulous charities. Experts detail these three offenses against aging adults.
- Social Security Spoofing. In this scam, unknown callers threaten victims, saying they will face arrest or other legal action if they fail to call a provided phone number or press the number indicated in the message to address the issue. If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Know that Social Security never calls people by phone unless you have ongoing business with them and they never make threats about arrest or legal action. Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website.
- Grandparent Scam. In this approach, a person calls an older adult pretending to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal trouble and needs money immediately. If you or a loved one receives such a call, call that grandchild back on a correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or shipping company you used. Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at gov/complaint.
- Fraudulent Charities. Scammers may impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers. To find reputable charities to support victims of natural disasters and other causes, use the IRS’s tax exempt organization search or look for an organization’s charity rating on places such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator. If you’re a disaster victim, use NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® disaster assistance tool to find legitimate help with relief and financial assistance.
Arming yourself with information and helping to protect vulnerable seniors are among the best ways to fight fraud, experts note.