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Seniors are Targets of Scammers

October 19, 2014
Plain English Version

senior woman and mature daughterOlder adults are targets for swindlers. There are good reasons. They often have sizable retirement savings. They have established credit.

Because they may not monitor their financial statements, they are good targets for identity theft.

A state director of the American Association of Retired People (AARP) says the first step is for older adults and their families to stop thinking that they could never fall for a scam.   

There are common frauds of which to be aware.

Phoning or emailing pretending to be a grandchild. The pretender says he is a “grandchild,” needs cash and does not want his parents told about the request. The grandparents think, “I’ll ask questions later.”

Con artists calling, emailing or even knocking on doors selling fake discount drug cards. They are looking for information that they can use for identity theft.

Scammers sending out emails asking for charitable donations. They often use the names of real charities. Victims are asked to provide a bank-account number and other personal information to make a donation.

Pitches for magazine subscriptions and sweepstakes come over the phone, through email or in old-fashioned mailers. If you want to collect a “free” prize, you need to buy magazines or send money.

One expert said that older adults are easier to scam when they still do things like pay the bills. They may be more likely to be taken in by scams.

What should concerned families do?

  • Sit down and talk with older loved ones about the risks and warning signs of scams.
  • Think about adding their names to the bank accounts of their parents to watch for suspicious withdrawals or payments.
  • Think about parents putting a “freeze” on their credit reports to prevent the opening of false accounts.

The National Council on Aging (ncoa.org) lists 10 common scams. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (fbi.gov) has a page dedicated to senior fraud, and AARP (aarp.org) has a “fraud watch” page.

Source: The Wall Street Journal October 4, 2014

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