Imagine how seniors feel when they get a threatening phone call, such as, "Your grandson is in jail and if we don't receive $5,000 he won't be released for quite some time." This can cause panic and fear.
As we approach the holidays, we hear more and more stories about suspicious phone calls that older adults are receiving. Even one Eskaton employee reported receiving a phone call from the IRS saying that she must pay immediately or face jail time. Upon research, we've learned that the IRS does not call tax payers, nor do they threaten them on the telephone. The IRS sends notifications via US Mail. In cases like this, it is OK to just hang up.
Linda Whiteside, Manager of the Eskaton Telephone Reassurance Program, offers advice about falling victim to scammers that prey on senior who live in their own homes. Financial scams that target older adults are wide spread and provide easy money for unscrupulous people. Financial scams are considered “low-risk crimes" because most often go unreported and can be difficult to prosecute. However, they that leave their victims emotionally devastated and financially vulnerable.
Recent studies show that one in 10 older adults have been financially exploited by scammers. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the top three scams affecting seniors are:
- Lottery Sweepstake Scams: Phone calls, email or mailings asking for money in advance for service fees or taxes on your winnings.
- Grandparent Scams: Phone calls, texts or emails saying “It’s me, grandma. I’m in some trouble; can you send me some money? But don’t tell mom.” Scammers pretend to be a grandchild in distress, asking for money to be wired or sent immediately.
- Romance Scams: Scammers, often people met online through social media dating sites, express interest too quickly, are never able to meet in person and eventually ask for financial help.
Other elder abuse scams include: Impostors posing as agents for the IRS, debt collection agencies, Social Security officials, and charitable organizations.
In order to protect your self:
- Never pay in advance for lottery winnings.
- Never send or wire money to someone claiming to be a grandchild in trouble without speaking to another family member first. This is a common scam that many seniors fall for.
- Never send money to someone that you may have developed romantic feelings for and have never met.
- Never provide social security numbers or bank account numbers over the phone or online. The IRS and Social Security Administration will never call and will correspond only through a mailed letter.
Some folks the longer they listen may be persuaded to give out information. Don’t put yourself at risk. If you suspect a phone scammer just hang up. You can always call back your bank or credit card company as ask if they called with a legitimate issue.
If you feel you are a victim of financial fraud report to the following agencies:
- Transunion Credit Bureau https://www.transunion.com/ 800-916-8800
- Notify your bank that you are a victim of fraud
- The Federal Trade Commission 877-382-4357 ftc.gov
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 855-411-2372 or consumerfinance.gove/olderamericans