We’ve been hearing from our clients about a series of three new scams affecting senior citizens. It’s important to know and understand these scams because fraudsters are improving their illicit tactics to seem more convincing than ever.
Read below to find out which scams are plaguing people the most and how you can recognize them. If you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer, do not give out or confirm any personal information and hang up and call a trusted friend or advisor.
1. It’s Not the IRS Calling You
In a particularly common scam, someone claiming to represent the IRS calls people to inform them that they owe money to the government. If payment isn’t received immediately, the fraudster threatens, “a cop” will be at your door within 24 hours.
This is a perfect example of a phone scam because the IRS does not call you on the phone! Don’t worry if you’ve ignored one of these calls – the police are not coming to your door!
Make Tax time an Identity Theft Prevention time. If you believe the IRS may legitimately be trying to contact you, call a trusted advisor – your attorney, your CPA, and/or your family before doing anything!
2. Your Grandchild Isn’t Calling for Prepaid Cards or a Wire Transfer
Another phone scam is especially heinous because it involves someone posing as your grandchild or the close friend of a grandchild. Attempting to fool you into believing you’re speaking to family member or a family friend, the individual calling will ask you to send money immediately – usually by prepaid cards or to a specific Western Union.
The call usually comes late at night and they beg you not to call the grandchild’s parents because of the kind of trouble they are in (or something like that). Sometimes, they claim to be the police and you need to help pay to get them out of jail. Even worse, they may claim to be a loved one in fear of their life if they don’t get the money they’re demanding.
The call is often late at night because scammers figure an older person will get confused more easily – especially if the call just woke them up. The caller works to isolate you from others who would be able to verify the information.
If you’ve received such a call, always reach out your family or a trusted advisor – such as an attorney, financial advisor, or CPA – before doing anything!
3. Beware of Online Dating
Online dating is now a very normal way for people of all ages to seek romantic connections with one another.
Chances are you have a good friend who met the most wonderful person online. So, you decide to sign up, too.
Soon, you get contacted by a very nice-looking man. He’s well-educated and successful, and you think, “boy did I hit the lottery!” You and your new man begin communicating via email and you find yourself falling for him. He’s everything you hoped for at this stage of life.
You talk about meeting but, since he travels for his work, he can never seem to make it. Even so, he continues to write you beautiful letters. Then, one day he sends you an email telling you about his precious grandchild, Sophie, who just got rushed to the hospital. She needs emergency surgery and the hospital is demanding a certain amount of cash up-front. Would you please front him the cash until he can close the deal he’s working on? It should only be a few weeks. If you don’t do it Sophie might die! He’ll even give you an address to send the money order to. It has to be a money order because the hospital won’t accept anything but cash, and he’ll have to immediately cash your check. Better yet, since he’s caught up at the hospital, he can send someone to meet you at the bank!
This scammer is patient. He creates a story and image of himself that is appealing to you. It is a very confident and sometimes traceable image. We all know relationships develop with mutual sharing and communication. Well, his image also develops as you share your personal information.
This person specifically appeals to a woman’s natural desire for romance or a man’s need for sexual expression. It’s such an insidious ploy because it plays on our human needs.
He or she is never the person in the photo online (tip: try using Google reverse image search).
Additional Information about Scammers
Any kind of scam is always a numbers game. They use an auto-dialing service to call 300 people in just a few minutes before finally hitting a real victim. On dating websites, they send wonderful messages that they copy and paste many times over.
It’s kind of like fishing, so the term “phishing” applies. Eventually, they catch someone. DON’T answer the phone if you don’t recognize the calling number. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message. They will almost always beg and plead that you do not tell anyone about the call. Their strength is in secrecy. DO call your family and/or a trusted advisor, such as an attorney, financial advisor, or CPA, before doing anything!
They search Facebook and other social media accounts. Be sure to set your privacy settings so only people you know can see your posts and private information.
They are usually very friendly. This is the real hook. They call and chat and tell you about their lives so that you will, in turn, divulge all your secrets. They reel you in by conversation. Information is power!
If you are scammed, it’s important to share the situation with your friends and loved ones. These scammers are notorious for taking advantage of people who are embarrassed about getting caught. The most powerful thing we can do is talk about scams to warn the people around us. Sadly, people who don’t tell others often get scammed again.
The elder law attorneys at Hill & Kinsella are sensitive to the personal, financial, and legal issues that tend to impact elder clients.
Contact our firm at (727) 240-2350 if you require legal guidance in matters involving elder law, estate planning, Medicaid issues, and more.