According to the Cooperative Credit Union Association’s CU Senior Safeguard, 5 million seniors fall victim each year to financial abuse, robbing them of roughly $136 billion. Technology makes it easier for scammers to target seniors without them even realizing it. Financial institutions have the great responsibility to educate and protect those susceptible to elder abuse. In an effort to do so, we have compiled a list of the several types of scams to look out for:
- Grandparent scams: The grandparent scam, or emergency scam, is when a fraudster pretends to be senior’s grandchild and claims that they are in urgent need of money for an emergency such as a car accident or an arrest. The scammer will typically ask the grandparent not to tell anyone they are wiring the funds. If you are skeptical, call your family to make sure everything is okay and alert the authorities about the attempted scam.
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams: Another frequent way seniors are targeted is by being tricked into thinking that they won a sweepstakes and have to pay a fee in order to receive their prize. If you get a call informing you that you have won a contest that you do not remember entering and are asked to pay a winner’s fee, hang up immediately.
- IRS scams: Fraudsters are known to impersonate IRS agents and inform elders that they owe taxes and will be arrested if they do not pay the government on the spot. It is crucial to note that the IRS will rarely call you and will never ask you for personal information via email, text, or social media.
- Sweetheart scams: Scammers are known to create online dating or social media accounts using photos of random men and women to form romantic relationships with elders. Once they have formed the relationship and built trust, the scammer will ask the elder for money to help with their bills or for a visit. If someone you are dating online asks you to send them money, say no or try to video call them to verify their identity.
- Identity theft: While identify theft is committed by nameless scammers, family members also have been known to take advantage of their elders financially. Be careful who you give access to your finances and if you notice money missing from your account, report it to your bank or credit union immediately.
- Telemarketing scams: Beware of telemarketing scams that urge you to donate to a fake charity or notify you that your vehicle’s extended warranty is expired. There are many different examples of telemarketing scams but try to avoid anyone that asks you for information or money with a sense of urgency.
- Other signs of elder fraud: If a senior in your family seems to have lost control of their finances, made unusual changes to their will or power of attorney, or has strange banking activities, check in with them and alert their financial institution.
If you or someone you know has suffered from elder abuse in Rhode Island, report it here.