At Murphy Wealth Management, our goal is to make sure you take a safe and practical approach to preparing for your retirement. In keeping with that goal, we would like to make you aware of several scams that target seniors. Currently, over two million senior citizens are known to fall victim to elder fraud every year. However, experts believe many more crimes against seniors go unreported. Some may not realize the fraud until a family member or caregiver gets involved. Others are embarrassed when they discover they have been deceived and choose to hide the events.
There are many reasons why seniors are targeted for scams. Many are simply overly trusting, while others may have decreased cognition resulting from various health issues. Perpetrators of this type of fraud are aware that either many of these people have retirement accounts with money to spare or are on a budget and likely to jump at the chance for a financial windfall.
We want to help seniors understand how to spot the common signs that signal deception and what to do if it happens to you or a loved one. Here are some of the most common scams out there today.
This common scam uses these government programs to trick people into sharing their personal information. They often misrepresent themselves as a Medicare representative to obtain the victim’s Medicare information as well as other personal information. They then use that information to commit fraud. In other cases, callers will ask for bank account information so they can steal money directly from the victim’s account.
Scammers also regularly pose as Social Security representatives promising to improve the benefits the victim can receive. They may ask to be paid for these services or solicit enough information to have the benefits deposited directly into their own accounts.
Remember, Medicare and Social Security personnel will never try to sell you anything–ever. They also will not contact you and request personal information unless you have reached out to them first. If you feel a fraudulent party is contacting you, hang up and contact the agencies directly. It is also important to check your Medicare and Social Security statements regularly to confirm that nothing unusual is happening.
Sadly, many lonely or widowed seniors fall prey every year to what is known as a sweetheart scam. In this situation, the scammer poses as an online love interest. They slowly gain the trust of the victim by expressing their love for the person. Once the scammer convinces the victim the affection is real, they ask for money. Since the scammer has already established the relationship, the victim perceives this person as a boyfriend or girlfriend and is comfortable sending cash. By the time a family member intervenes and exposes the fraudulent relationship, it becomes incredibly challenging to get the money back. Many times, the amount of money sent can amount to thousands of dollars.
When you meet someone online, it is important to establish they are real. If the person you are speaking with never wants to meet in person or connect on a video chat, a red flag should go up. If you think a loved one has fallen prey to this type of scam, it is important to remain empathetic while gaining additional information. Requesting power of attorney can grant you easier access to their accounts so you can personally check for suspicious activity.
The grandparent scam is a very popular scam targeting the older population. An imposter calls pretending to be the victim’s grandchild or someone holding the grandchild hostage. They demand the grandparent pay a ransom in return for letting the grandchild go. The concerned grandparent immediately transfers the ransom money to ensure their grandchild’s safety, only to realize the whole thing is a scam. Reports have found that this is one of the most lucrative frauds, earning the scammer an average of $9,000.
If you receive a call like this, the first thing to do is to stay calm and not overreact. While the thought of a grandchild being kidnapped is frightening, it is important to first confirm the situation is real. Before sending any money, try to contact the grandchild directly to see if they are in any kind of trouble. If you confirm the call is a scam, report the phone number to your local police. If you were unfortunate enough to have sent money before discovering the fraud, be sure to file a police report.
Generally, the older population falls victim to various phishing and telemarketing scams. These scams can be performed by e-mail or over the phone. The scammer’s goal is to obtain as much personal information as possible from the victim including name, address, birthdate, banking information, and more. The scammer then uses this information to impersonate the victim or steal funds. Older people who are not savvy on the computer may be quick to click on malicious links that download malware or expose information.
If you receive a phone call from someone and are asked for personal information, think twice before sharing anything. If you are even remotely unsure, hang up and call the organization they say they represent. When using e-mail, do not click on any links or open any attachments in an unsolicited e-mail. Even if you think you know the sender, think hard before you click. Scammers can easily mask the e-mail address they are sending from to make it appear authentic. If you are concerned about a loved one being scammed, take the time to educate them on how to check their e-mail for fraudulent links and communications.
The first step in preventing one of these scams from being perpetrated on you is to be aware that they exist in the first place. If you believe you may be a victim of a scam, confide in a family member or friend you trust. Remember, these scams are designed to trick you, so don’t be embarrassed. If you think you have lost money to one of these scams, be sure to contact the police immediately.
We hope these tips have been helpful to you. At Murphy Wealth Management, we have spent the last 30 plus years helping people pursue the retirement of their dreams. That includes helping them protect their assets and helping them be safe from potential threats. If you would like to schedule a free consultation to review your current wealth plan, we would welcome the opportunity to spend time with you.