Online fraud targeting seniors.

National Grandparents’ Day (Sept. 9) helps focus on continuing scams, fraud and identity theft targeting older adults, who lose money to fraud at a much higher median rate than other cohorts.

“The reality of scams and fraud is that they can target anyone at any time, over any form of user media. It’s important to know that some scams lend themselves to older adults, like Medicare fraud. Worth noting: many versions of senior scams play off the belief that older adults might be less tech-savvy or may be naïve,” according to the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center.

Overall more younger people report losing money to fraud than older people but when people aged 70 and older had a loss, it was a much higher median loss than other groups. Nearly seven million seniors over the age of 65 have “been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud,” according survey conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Investor Protection Trust.

For example, the Federal Trade Commission reported in 2017 nearly 1 in 5 people who reported an imposter scam lost money. “A whopping $328 million lost to someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or someone else who’s not who they say they are, but who wants your money.” Additionally, the median loss by age was higher for those aged 70 and above ($600 or more).

In 2018 scammers have taken advantage of publicity surrounding Medicare and health insurance. Two different reports have come into the ITRC from individuals who signed up for Medicare, only to later receive calls from someone claiming to be from Medicare offering them additional discounted services, like knee brace coverage. The person requested the victims’ Medicare numbers—which is their Social Security numbers—and other personal information.

In February this year the FTC led legal action against two deceptive schemes targeting or affecting senior citizens.

In the first case, the FTC and the State of Missouri charged two men and their sweepstakes operation with bilking tens of millions of dollars from people throughout the United States and other countries.

In the second case, the FTC alleged that the defendants worked with Indian telemarketers to trick older Americans into buying bogus technical support services. The telemarketers told people that hackers would soon break into their computers and rob their bank accounts, and that they should act right away by purchasing expensive security software. While remotely connected to consumers’ computers, purportedly to install security software, the telemarketers also took consumers’ personal information, the FTC alleged.

By some estimates, older Americans are defrauded by over $12.5 billion annually. Here are some more of the common scams out there.

  • Political. Someone calls, explaining they’re working on behalf of a political party, candidate or political cause. They ask for support through a donation. Contributors expose themselves to two possible frauds, the amount of the donation and card information.
  • Fake lottery winner. People receive a call saying they’ve won. All they must do is pay the insurance or claims fee, before winnings can be sent.
  • IRS. A call or message says the recipient owes back taxes; if not paid immediately legal action will be taken immediately.
  • Charity. Scammers favor impersonating charities to take advantage people’s inclination to trust and help
  • Dating. Online dating provides scammers with the perfect opportunity to build trust, while staying completely anonymous. There are catphishing scams where people pretend to be someone they’re not and some fraudsters even use faith-based dating sites.
  • The county clerk call. Using tools that imitate local numbers, scammers call and pretend they’re from a local government office and they are being fined. Officials in places such as Jacksonville, Fla. and Cleveland, Ohio have recently warned consumers about these fake calls.
  • The unpaid parking tickets. Another popular phone scam on the rise involves scammers pretending to be from the local sheriff’s office, claiming the call recipient had unpaid parking tickets. Another attempt to scare people into giving up their credit card information.