Contribution from freelance writer, Jessica Walter.
The U.S. Senate Lists Worst Scams Targeting Seniors
Fraudsters impersonating the IRS and conning thousands of people, have led to the U.S. Senate publishing the top scams targeting the country’s older people. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called these scams ‘the most persistent fraud in IRS history’. Targeting over 1.97 million people, they call seniors telling them that they will be arrested unless they immediately pay alleged tax debts.
Scams Covered More Than 21 States
A review of over 5 million complaints lodged with the Federal Trade Commission from 2015 to 2016, revealed that America’s over 60s population mostly reported imposter scams, tech support hoaxes and telemarketing practices. It’s believed that the IRS scammers conned victims in at least 21 states. One senior told a committee that he had lost around $8,000 to fraudsters impersonating the IRS, who threatened him that he would be arrested ‘within an hour’ if he didn’t pay what they said he owed in overdue taxes. Overall, in 2010, this type of theft cost seniors over $2.9 billion, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
60% of Senior Survey Respondents Targeted by Scammers
In a separate survey conducted by Home Instead Inc, it was found that over 60% of American seniors who took part have been targeted by an online scam. 38% of seniors said that someone had tried to scam them online, while 28% said they had downloaded a computer virus by mistake.
Why are Seniors Targeted?
Unfortunately, many scammers see older people as easy pray for their scams. Sometimes, when an older person is quite isolated and lonely, they are more vulnerable to these types of crimes. When a professional and friendly person calls, and engages them in a friendly conversation, the senior can often end up trapped by the attention. Quite often the scammers are very experienced and can tell when someone would make a good target. But seniors shouldn’t automatically be seen as easy targets by scammers, just because they are older. In fact, while there are of course vulnerable elderly people, there are also a growing number of ‘superagers’, who stay active, both mentally and physically, enjoy being challenged and are on a par with the average 25-year-old.
What Seniors (or Anyone) Can Do to Protect Themselves
Social Security, the IRS and Medicare & Medicaid Services do not make phone calls asking for Social Security details or bank information. People should not give out their private details over the phone. If people believe they are victims of fraud, they should call the relevant companies directly, make a report with local police and inform the Federal Trade Commission.
Be wary of emails or messages that request urgent action, such as a problem with a bank account or taxes. These are very likely to be a scam. If you are unsure at all, contact the companies directly by phone to check whether the messages are legitimate. Be cautious about what you share on social media. Remember you can adjust privacy settings to limit who can see what information.
If you’re interested in Jess’s writing, contact her!