You probably receive at least one phone call or email a day from a potential scammer, and if so, you aren’t alone. The FBI reports that in 2023, scammers stole more than $3.4 billion from older Americans.

The FBI reported an 11% increase in scam losses reported by Americans over 60 last year. The bureau also warned of a rise in aggressive schemes where scammers send couriers to collect cash or gold directly from victims.

Tech support scams were the most commonly reported fraud among older adults last year. In this scheme, criminals impersonate technical or customer service representatives over the phone.

Authorities also warned of a rising scam where criminals pretend to be technology, banking and government officials to convince victims that their bank accounts have been infiltrated by foreign hackers. The scammers then instruct the victims to move their money to a new account, which is secretly controlled by them.

Here are some common scams used by criminals to prey on older Americans, along with some tools you can use to avoid becoming a victim:

Health Insurance Scams

Citizens aged 65 and older qualify for Medicare benefits, which can make them fairly easy targets for health insurance-related scams. Scammers pretend to offer insurance cards or health insurance marketplace assistance, both of which turn out to be fake, or they may look to steal your health information. In one common situation, you may be told that you need a new Medicare card and must provide your Social Security information to receive one. Criminals may also try to sell you low-cost medications, supplements, weight-loss pills, or other health products. According to the FBI, these scams often start with an email, internet advertisements, links in forums or social media, and fraudulent websites.

Investment Scams

Many retirees are interested in expanding their wealth, especially if they plan on leaving a legacy to their loved ones. This desire can make seniors easy targets for fraudulent “investment opportunities.” Whether it’s an offer to invest in a fictional business or to buy a non-existent vacation property, investment scams have the potential to quickly deplete a retiree’s savings. The FBI offers these tips:

  • Don’t be fooled by a flashy website.
  • Don’t invest in anything you are not sure about – do your homework.
  • Check out other websites regarding the company or individual making the offer.
  • Be careful of special investment offers that arrive via unsolicited email.
  • Be cautious when dealing with foreign individuals or companies.
  • Inquire about all of the terms and conditions.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Because many people over the age of 60 aren’t accustomed to using technology, these schemes have become incredibly common. Phishing scams, viral pop-ups, and attempts to steal another’s identity are a few examples of tactics you may encounter.

It’s important to remember that no bank or other financial institution will ever ask for your personal information via email. If you are concerned or unsure about a request, visit their website directly (don’t click any links in the email) or call them for confirmation.

Government Impersonation

These scammers impersonate a member of the government or law enforcement and claim that a crime has been committed using your identity. The caller may threaten to arrest you if you don’t send money to clear your name or to assist in the investigation. The scammer usually asks for a prepaid card, wire transfer, or that you mail cash overnight.

As with banks or financial institutions, government or law enforcement officials will not demand payments from you, nor will they contact you by phone to tell you that you are under investigation. Legitimate actions of this type, according to the FBI, will arrive in the form of an official letter or in person.

Charity Scams

We all know that natural disasters are often unpredictable and can happen any time. When they occur, scammers find opportunities to target those who have been affected or want to offer their support. These scams can occur over the phone, through social media, via email, or in person. Always donate to reputable charities, and make sure you do your research if you do not have knowledge of the organization. The Federal Trade Commission recommends checking with organizations like the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or GuideStar to learn more about a charity before you donate.

Protecting Yourself and Others from Financial Scams

Protect yourself and those close to you from falling victim to financial scams. Taking the time to address these details can help prevent you from encountering devastating theft.

  • Be suspicious
  • Ask questions and stay informed
  • Never give out personal information to unknown sources
  • Don’t make hasty decisions
  • Invest carefully

If you feel suspicious of an email, phone call, or another form of contact, research the origins of the “company” or group that originated the communication. Staying aware can help you safeguard your financial well-being.

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