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Common online/phone scams targeting seniors

Unfortunately, all too often, our vulnerable seniors become victims of predatory scams. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of familiarity with technology and a lack of awareness about these scams and how easy they are to execute. Below is a list of some of the most common scams that typically target seniors. 

The IRS Scam. This is one of the most common: A senior will get a phone call, alerting them that they owe money to the IRS and have to make a payment immediately or they will be arrested. Following the prompts on the phone will lead the senior to a live person – often an individual with a foreign accent. The senior will be asked to remit payment, but usually in the form of a gift card or Western Union transfer. This makes it virtually impossible to trace the source of the payment or get one’s money back. In reality, the IRS doesn’t call if you owe them money – they will only mail. 

The Social Security Scam. In this particular scam, someone may call a senior and say that their Social Security benefits are about to be turned off. Following the prompts, the senior will speak with a live person, and they will then be asked for sensitive personal information. This may include name, social security number, banking information, or credit information. Money will then be stolen from the senior. Of course, this isn’t real: The Social Security Administration already has all of this information on file. 

The “Arrest” Scam. There are many variations on this scam, mainly the arresting source, but this scam typically involves someone calling a senior and saying that a warrant has been issued for their arrest. In order to avoid the arrest, the individual should either remit some sort of payment – or, even more frighteningly, visit a certain location. This is false, of course – no one who is going to arrest you will ever call first.

Family Member Arrested. This is a common electronic scam. In this scam, a senior may get an Email from someone, posing as a beloved relative. That relative will say that they were on a foreign trip and that they were arrested. In order to get out, they need money immediately, and that money must be sent via Western Union. This makes the charge impossible to reverse or track down. This scam makes no sense on the surface – why would anyone who is arrested send an email instead of making a phone call? All of us, including our seniors, should always verify who is sending them an email before making any sort of payment. 

These scams can be financially costly or even physically dangerous. The burden falls to all of us to make sure that the seniors in our lives are aware of these scams and never remit payment to anyone, or give out any sort of financial information unless they are completely positive about the source. 

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