Senior citizens beware!

Carolyn A. Stewart Wealth Planning

It’s amazing how creative (and treacherous) scammers have become – especially when their deceptions are aimed at older folks.

Take spry, 80-year-old Evelyn. She received a phone call from someone who identified himself as a local police officer. His story: Evelyn had unpaid taxes that needed to be paid immediately – over the phone – or she would be arrested. Her response: panic. The result: After being transferred to a person claiming to be an IRS agent, she withdrew $10.000 from her bank account and purchased a prepaid debit card to cover the debt.

Evelyn’s story is all too common. The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that consumers lost $8.8 billion to scams in 2022, an increase of 30% from the previous year. This number will only grow as technology and the schemes that take advantage of the elderly become more sophisticated.

The first line of defense is knowing what’s out there.

1 Phone Scams \ Scammers call and claim the person owes back taxes or has some other tax-related issue. Don’t fall for it. The IRS initiates most contact through the mail and will never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text, or social media regarding a bill or tax refund. Additionally, the IRS will never demand immediate payment.

2 Phishing Emails \ Scammers send fake emails that appear to be from the IRS, Social Security
Administration, or Medicare. Don’t click on anything. Any links or attachments may contain malware or lead to phishing websites designed to steal personal and financial information.

3 Grandparent Scams \ Fraudsters pretend to be a grandchild in distress, needing money urgently for an
emergency situation. Even if the scammer uses the grandchild’s real name or pretends to be the grandchild, be skeptical. A common warning sign is that the caller will not let you get off the phone or be able to verify some personal information about the “grandchild” in trouble.

4 Tech Support “Exams” \ A scammer will pretend to be a tech support agent for a well-known company such as Apple or Microsoft. They will inform the victim that their computer has a virus and instruct the victim to download malicious software. Other tricks involve the scammers obtaining remote access to the computer or demanding payment for non-existent software.

5 Fake Websites \ Scammers create fake websites (typically IRS or Social Security Administration) that
mimic the official websites. Look very closely. Make sure the website has “.gov” in the domain name.

Bottom line \ Learn about the common scams that target seniors. Stop and think before reacting to any
“urgent” request that seems unusual. Trust your instincts. Never be afraid to reach out to friends or family if something seems amiss.

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