What To Know About Elder Scams – Scams, cons and frauds targeting retirees are an epidemic. A 2014 study of New Yorkers over age 60 showed that 2.7% of respondents had been victims of fraud in the previous year alone.
It’s partly because some retirees learn about computers late in life and, misunderstanding the social norms of online interactions, click links or respond to emails that savvier users would recognize as obvious cons. They’re also more likely to pick up the phone for a cold call than are cohorts whose phone etiquette comes from the era of texting and caller ID. There’s also a chicken-and-egg question: Phone scammers target people in the AARP’s directory because they think older Americans are more likely to fall for cons, but people are more likely to be victims of fraud when they’re being intensively targeted by scammers.
Whatever the reason, Americans over age 65 get scam calls and emails constantly. A recent study showed that 85% of older Americans got at least one scam call a week, and usually many more. Here are a few scams you may have seen around and what to do about them:
- Extend your car’s warranty/You qualify for a lower credit card interest rate/Congratulations! You have a chance to win a [noun] — By far the most common kind of spam call is the lead generator. Large call centers route through a gateway carrier that makes them register as a local number on your caller ID. If you pick up, you hear a prerecorded pitch for a product. If you stay on the line long enough, your number gets sold as a qualified lead to vendors selling that product. This type of call has quadrupled in the past four years, but while these calls are a nuisance, they’re mainly harmless. Many carriers offer add-ons that block lead-generating calls, and you can also use third-party blockers like Nomorobo or Robokiller. But the most important thing to do is to hang up quickly.
- You owe thousands in back taxes/There was an error in your Social Security payment — It’s easy to get flustered if someone from the government says they’ve been trying to reach you. It’s also easy to believe them if, like most people these days, you don’t answer every phone call. After all, most phone calls are scams. But bear in mind that the government knows this too. That’s why real government agents will always contact you first by mail or email and direct you to a secure web portal to process any payment. They will never ask you to read your credit card number over the phone. Just hang up.
- You have one match — Catfishing is a problem that affects elderly people in particular because they aren’t always familiar with online dating etiquette. There’s no easy way to know whether your love is real, but there is one simple way to know whether a dating profile is. Right-click on the profile image and choose “Copy image address” or “Copy image location.” Then go to Google Image Search and click on the camera icon in the search bar. Paste the image address into the search bar and search. It will show you where else on the internet that photo has been posted. Hopefully, you’ll see your date’s Twitter and LinkedIn pages, not a modeling agency or stock photo site. This is called a reverse image search, and it’s also an effective weapon against any dubious news stories your cousin might share on Facebook.
Spam and scams are on the rise, and as soon as you turn 60 or 65, bad actors perceive you as a target.
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