In 2021, according to a study done by CNBC, more than $5.8 billion dollars was reported lost due to various scams and fraud. More and more often, we are finding that phone, email, and post scams are becoming the most popular way to obtain personal information from citizens all over the globe. No matter how clever some of these scams are, a keen eye and a clear head are the best ways to stop these scams in their tracks. Here is a list of the 6 most common scams targeting seniors:
- Phishing Email Campaigns are one of the most common ways for an internet criminal to get hold of your personal information and use it for their own gain. “Phishing” is defined as: “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.” A good rule of thumb when dealing with an unfamiliar email or message is to simply delete the email and contact the company you received the message from using contact information from their official website. Always go to the source when you have concerns about your account or account security. These emails can very cleverly disguise themselves as a message from a legitimate company so it is always best to not click on any links provided in the email, report as spam, and delete said email.
- IRS Phone Scams are becoming more and more popular every year because of how successful they are in triggering an emotional response from their victims, who are usually upstanding members of society who take their taxes and the IRS’s authority seriously. These scams scare you into thinking you incorrectly filed your taxes and that you are just hours away from being prosecuted for tax evasion/fraud. These “IRS Agents” scare you into thinking irrationally and use that fear to get as much personal information out of you as possible. It is important to note: the IRS will never call you and ask for your personal information or require you to pay over the phone! Additionally, no upstanding organization will ever ask you to pay your debt/fines with store gift cards. Any information you give to these scammers can and will be used to destroy your credit and take assets from your accounts. Some scammers will threaten you with arrest but know that you are perfectly safe, and the IRS/Tax Authority will never contact you in this manner. Just hang up the phone and block the number.
- Imposter Scams are scams in which you will receive a phone call from someone that you believe is familiar to you or about someone who is familiar to you. These scams were popularized in Latin America but are quickly starting to take hold in the US and internationally. These scammers will pretend to be someone you care about, a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a friend from church, and tell you that they are in trouble and need to be sent cash fast. Alternatively, these scammers can pretend to be someone who has someone close to you and demand a ransom be paid for their release. A way for these scammers to learn who is important to you is by accessing your Facebook profiles or the profiles of someone you are close to and using their name to get you to trust them and believe whatever scam they are trying to pull. In order to determine the validity of these calls, on another line or a computer, message or call the person that the call is referencing. Additionally, try to ask questions that only the person they are referencing would know, more often than not these scammers will get frustrated and hang up the call if asked anything specific. Again, these scammers try to feed off your emotional reactions to get you to react emotionally instead of rationally.
- Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams take form in many ways. These scams can be used in a variety of different mediums: post, email, phone, and social media to name a few. The premise of this scam is simple. You won a huge jackpot and in order to collect your winnings you must supply some key pieces of information and you’re set for life! Instead of using fear to get you to react, these scams use joy and relief to get you to trust them enough to divulge any information that they ask for. These pieces of information might include your social security number, bank routing information, address, phone number, and even the answers to some of your security questions for various sites/institutions. Remember, no one will ever send you an email informing you of a sweepstakes or jackpot win. These messages are often trying to get you to give them what is most precious to you: your personal information.
- Credit Repair/Debt Relief tactics prey on those who are most vulnerable in our society, people who need financial help. These services advertise that they can help many people get out of a tough spot in their life. However, there are just as many, if not more, scams that use all the information that you provide them with to ruin your credit instead of building it up. Never give a random number that calls you your personal information, especially your social security number. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million are victims of identity theft every year. Unless you reached out to a specific reputable company to help you with your credit or debt relief, do not reply to these emails or answer these phone calls.
- Warranty Scams are some of the easiest and most annoying scams that occur today. The premise is simple, a scammer will send you a post in the mail, call you, or send you an email posing as a dealership or car manufacturer and claim that your car’s warranty is about to expire and in order to continue your warranty you must provide them with payment, or your car will no longer be covered. The variety of ways that this scam can occur is what makes it one of the most dangerous and convincing. They will send you letters, call you, email you, all in attempt to convince you that this is a legitimate service that you need. Unless you receive a call from the dealership that you personally bought your car from (and confirm its actually them by verifying their phone number/address/name of representative) no one will ask you to supply these details over the phone. If you are wary or suspicious it is best to just ignore the messages and hang up the phone when they call.
Being a victim to any of these scams is nothing to be ashamed of. Every year scammers are becoming very sophisticated and clever enough to fool even the most diligent of people. If you have lost money to a phone scammer or even have information about an active phone/email scam, you can report it at: