Ask anyone about their grandparents and they will likely smile and recall fond memories from their childhood. Grandparents nurture and care for their grandchildren, while completely spoiling them every once in a while. This Sunday, September 13th is National Grandparents Day and even if your own grandparents are no longer around, you should take a moment to celebrate these wonderful family members. This holiday is also a good opportunity to understand and educate older family and friends when it comes to senior scams and preventing identity theft.
Because seniors often have strong credit histories and lower amounts of debt, they are considered prime targets for identity thieves. It is essential that you are aware of some common scams that target older populations so that you can speak to your parents, grandparents, and older relatives. They need to know how to spot elder fraud and what to do if they think they are being scammed.
Scams that Commonly Target Senior Citizens
According to the National Council on Aging, there are certain scams that directly target older adults and put them at risk of becoming victims of elder fraud:
- Medicare & Health Insurance Scams: Medicare is available for U.S. citizens over 65, so identity thieves who are interested in health insurance fraud don’t have to do a lot of homework to figure out what company a senior citizen is using for their health care. Scammers will typically call and pretend to be Medicare representatives and ask for personal information. Sadly, trusting seniors can be quick to supply this information over the phone. To protect against this form of fraud, be sure to instruct the older adults in your life to only give personal information to doctors or other Medicare approved providers.
- E-mail Scams: While the number of Internet-savvy seniors is growing, many older adults are still naïve to the ways of online con-artists. There are many different types of Internet scams, but one that commonly affects seniors involves e-mail phishing scams. Scammers will usually pose as a bank, the IRS, or some other legitimate company and ask the e-mail recipient to update or verify their personal information. Seniors need to be aware that real organizations will rarely ask for personal information via e-mail. Even if they think an e-mail request may be legitimate, they should call the phone number on the company’s website just to be sure.
- Grandparent Scams: Grandparent scams can be heart-breaking because they prey on a grandparent’s love for their grandchild. Scammers will typically call a senior citizen and say something like, “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” Grandma will then usually guess the name of a grandchild and the scammer will latch on to that identity. With that fake identity, they will try to convince the grandparent that they are in some sort of financial trouble and ask to have money wired to them as quickly as possible.
- Telemarketing Scams: While younger generations tend to favor texts over phone calls, older men and women still rely heavily on their landlines for communicating. Because senior citizens are more likely to make purchases over the phone, identity thieves and scammers posing as telemarketers love to call with offers your older loved ones can’t refuse. Telemarketing scams come in all shapes and sizes, so tell the seniors in your life that if a stranger calls and starts asking for personal information — even if they say they are from a charity — it’s better to be safe than sorry and just hang up that phone.
Educate Your Older Loved Ones About Identity Theft
When it comes to identity theft, many older adults just don’t realize how far scammers will go to steal personal information. By taking the time to talk to the seniors in your life about these senior scams and how they could be affected, you are doing them a great favor. Encourage your loved ones to research other types of scams in their free time and read even more about ways thieves could try to steal their information.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Vinoth Chandar.