As COO of Shelton Financial Group part of my role is working to protect our firm and our clients against scammers trying to profit when we let our guard down. Unfortunately, with the rise of technology there have been more and more accounts of retirees being targeted for financial scams to rob them of their wealth or identities. Because scammers have gained an understanding of how to trick and manipulate this generation, it has become quite common for them to gain access to bank accounts, personal information and in some cases, assets. We regularly hear stories from our clients of attempted or successful scams they have endured.
Learning about the common risks and schemes in this day and age can mean the difference between you or your loved ones remaining protected or playing right into the tricks of scam artists.
Common Scams That Target Retirees and Seniors
Health Insurance Scams
As a citizen who is older than 65, you qualify for Medicare benefits, which can make you a fairly easy target for health insurance-related scams. Scammers are able to carry out fraudulent behavior over the phone or even at the door utilizing insurance provider information, which they can acquire fairly easily.
A few common situations to be aware of include being told that you need a new Medicare card and in order to receive one you’d need to provide your Social Security information or discussions of new supplemental policies.
1. Investment Scams
Many retirees are interested in expanding their wealth, especially if they have a legacy to one day leave behind, which can make this group easy prey for faux “investment opportunities” that may not exist at all. Whether it’s offering their finances to a fictional business or buying a vacation property that isn’t real, investment scams have the potential to deplete retirees of their savings in a flash.
2. Internet & Email Scams
Because so many retirees and those of older generations aren’t always accustomed to the ever-changing details involved with the internet, these schemes have become incredibly common. Phishing scams, viral pop-ups and attempts to steal one’s identity are a few examples of something you may encounter. It’s important to keep in mind that no bank or other business will ask for personal information via email. If you are ever concerned or unsure visit their website directly or contact them for additional confirmation.
3. Charity Scams
We all know that natural disasters are often unpredictable and happen regularly. With these occurrences, scammers find opportunities to target those who have been affected or want to offer their support. These situations can occur over the phone, through social media, email or in person. Always donate to reputable charities and learn more using the IRS’s tax-exempt organization search.
4. Help/Grandparent Scams
This scenario often consists of someone calling or emailing the victim either pretending to be a family member in trouble or acting as a person of authority representing the relative. They then ask for money to be wired to cover certain fees, which you may be all too happy to provide as someone who is emotionally involved. In order to keep the situation under wraps, you may then be asked not to tell anyone and soon after will never hear from the “relative” again, leaving you out of a particular amount of money.
If you find yourself to be a victim of any of the scenarios above it’s important to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. By doing so you may be able to retrieve your funds, but you will ultimately be helping another potential victim from experiencing a similar situation.
Protecting Yourself and Others From Financial Scams
It’s important to protect yourself and those close to you from falling victim to financial scams that have become so frequent. Taking the time to address these details can help prevent you from encountering devastating theft.
- Be suspicious
- Ask questions and stay informed
- Never give out personal information to unknown sources
- Don’t make hasty decisions
- Invest carefully
It’s unfortunate, but scammers who often prey on the elderly generally rely on the assumption that retirees and older groups of people are unfamiliar with technology and that they are unaware of the many possibilities of having their personal information stolen.
If you ever feel suspicious of an email, phone call or other forms of contact don’t hesitate to go with your gut and do your research regarding the origins of the “company” or group you’re speaking with. Staying aware will help you ultimately safeguard your well-being.
While I hope these opinions are helpful, they are for general information. You should, of course, consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.