As more adults choose to age in place and use the latest technology and social media channels to communicate with family and friends, digital fraud and scams are becoming more prevalent.
Unfortunately, aging parents are popular targets as criminals believe seniors to be more trusting and less tech-savvy. Additionally, seniors typically have larger savings than younger adults. According to the FBI, the elderly lost over $1 billion to scammers in 2020, and digital fraud schemes only seem to be increasing.
Talking to your parents about digital fraud can be as difficult as discussing unsafe driving, but being aware of common scams can help identify red flags and avoid or mitigate digital fraud. Below we discuss some common types of elderly fraud and provide some tips on protecting your parents.
Types of Elderly Fraud
Scammers employ various tactics to con seniors. And while anyone can be scammed, many of these tactics are specifically devised for older adults.
According to the National Council on Aging, the top 10 financial frauds that target older people include:
- Government Imposter Scams
- Medicare/Health Insurance Scams
- The Grandparent Scam
- Computer Tech Support Scams
- Robocalls/Phone Scams
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
- Romance Scams
- Elderly Financial Abuse
- Charity Scams
- Internet and Email Fraud
Many of these scams capitalize on trusting seniors. For instance, the tech support scheme has a criminal call and pretends to be a technical support representative. The goal is to gain remote access to your loved one’s computer so that sensitive information like bank passwords can be accessed and stolen.
In the case of the government impersonation scam, the scammer threatens to arrest your parent or loved one if money is not provided.
Most of these scams are implemented through phone or email, so the first step in protecting your parents is helping to limit spam phone calls and emails.
Reduce Scam Phone Calls and Emails
Check with your parents’ mobile provider about call-blocking services. If they have features for blocking robocalls, enable them. In addition, use phone settings to block calls from unknown callers.
You can prevent spam calls by registering with FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. Although it will not prevent all scammers from calling, registration will reduce the number of cold calls you receive.
Additional tips for preventing fraud through robocalls include:
- Be cautious of callers who pressure to provide information
- Never give out personal information like your bank account number, Social Security number or passwords.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown callers
Anything that appears as junk mail should be marked as spam. Then, the next time a similar email is sent, it will be recognized as spam. In addition, check the sender’s email address before opening the mail, even if an email looks legitimate.
Other precautions you can take to prevent digital fraud include:
- Securing your parents’ computer: Install the best antivirus on your parents’ computers and digital devices. Ensure that the antivirus is sourced from reputable providers and updated.
- Bank safeguards: Set up bank safeguards by instituting bank limits and alerts. You can also help your parents monitor their bank accounts.
- Investment fraud: Warn your parents about investment fraud. If a company claims it offers profitable investment options, you can help your parents by doing background checks of these companies before investing.
- Contracts: Advise your parents to never sign any contract without understanding the terms.
Falling victim to a scam can be embarrassing, and many people never report the incident. However, reporting fraud is an important step to help fight these criminals and prevent future scams.
The FBI recommends reporting to your local FBI field office or filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Additional Resources to fight Elder Fraud: