According to the American Journal of Public Health, about 5.4 percent of elderly people are scammed each year, though the crime is likely underreported.
It’s sad that there are people who take advantage of the vulnerability of elderly people who are at the point in their lives where financial recovery is difficult, if not impossible. Part of the vulnerability results from loneliness, a more trusting nature, and a greater willingness to engage in conversation. Some may also have compromised reasoning as a result of conditions such as dementia.
Once scammers have identified a target, they will either appear sympathetic and put on friendly airs or they will send threatening messages or calls (e.g. “if you don’t pay, authorities will arrest you.”). If she does pay them, they will continue to contact her relentlessly until they have drained all her resources.
Older people are more likely to be targeted in the following scams:
- Charities – seeking donations for a charity that the caller claims to represent.
- Computer scams – installing spyware or viruses via remote access and then charging for their removal, often by claiming to represent a tech company.
- Financial abuse – read more here.
- Funeral and cemetery – attending a funeral after reading obituaries and taking advantage of a grieving person by claiming the deceased had debt. This also involves some funeral homes that hike up prices and add unnecessary expenses.
- Grandparent scams – pretending to represent a grandchild who is in trouble (e.g. hospital, jail, overseas, etc.) and in need of financial assistance.
- Magazine subscriptions
- Prescriptions and anti-aging or health products
- Robocalls – using electronic technology to reach many people at once in order to maximise the number of victims.
- Romance – read more here.
- Sweepstakes or contests – telling them they won a prize and must pay an advance in order to receive it.
- Be wary of unsolicited calls from strangers.
- Don’t pay money to redeem prizes, whether that’s shipping, handling fees, etc.
- Double check someone’s credential’s before agreeing on an investment opportunity with them. It’s actually better to have a reputable financial advisor, though.
- Hang up if a call sounds suspicious or if the caller pressures you to make immediate decisions.
- Keep asking questions (name, address, phone number, website, how they got your number, their work experience, etc.). Most fraudsters will often get impatient and move on.
- Only visit reputable websites. Be careful about divulging personal information. Never give out your financial information over email or to a charity, etc.
Basically, reputable organisations will never ask you to divulge personal information (credit card information, passwords, etc.). If you suspect you are the victim of a scam – or know someone who is – contact your financial institution and place a fraud alert. Also consider filing a report with your local police department.