I was recently talking to a woman who informed me of a recent internet scam targeting her aging sister in law. While working online, a warning popped up informing her that there was a virus on her computer and if she wanted it fixed, she should contact a certain phone number right away. She ended up clicking on the pop-up, talking to a man who said he would fix her computer, she paid him $200 for this service, and then she got her computer back. There was nothing wrong with her computer in the first place and she noticed no difference after the “fix” was complete. Sadly this, and many other schemes, is a common tale among those so unfortunate to find themselves unaware and uninformed of the dangers of financial predators. Here’s a look at three of the most common scams aimed at the aging adult:
1. The Grandparent Scam. The scammer calls the house and says something to the effect of, “Hi Grandama/Grandpa, do you know who this is?” The grandparent then guesses the identity of one of his or her grandchildren and the scammer plays along, asking for money for some crisis (overdue rent, car trouble, tuition, etc.), begging the grandparent not to tell the parent of the child for fear of punishment/chastisement/embarrassment. The amount of money in this case is usually in the hundreds, and due to the ease of the scam and virtual anonymity of the scammer, is one that can be repeated over and over.
2. Internet Fraud. Due to the relative newness and constant changing of the internet, it’s no wonder that may aging adults are slow to adapt or learn the rules of what is considered normal or safe. Internet fraud includes pop-ups, as noted in the story above, viruses easily penetrating their information due to lack of firewalls or protection, and email scams from seemingly legitimate companies (the IRS), asking for verification of bank accounts or personal information.
3. Telemarketing/phone Scams. The National Council on Aging considers this type of scam to be the most common, as most aging adults have landlines and frequently make legitimate purchases over the phone. The scammer will ask for money for a relative that’s been in an ‘emergency,’ or pose as a charity or relief fund for a group of people or natural disaster. The funds can be wired with no verification of who is on the receiving end.
There are several more types of scams, many coming in the mail in the form of retirement savings or investments, refinancing mortgages, or sweepstakes and lottery winnings. Please talk about these issues with your aging loved one so that they can be aware and protected. Remember that financial fraud isn’t always random, in fact, 90% of reported cases involve a family member who has access to the finances of an aging adult.
If you need advice about care for a loved one, please call us at the number at the top of this page or click on the Contact Us button for a free assessment of your individual situation. We are here to help you and your family.
This information can be found on the National Council On Aging’s website, www.ncoa.com.