The FBI warns senior citizens that they are especially vulnerable to fraud schemes for several reasons. They are likely to own homes and have some resources, they were raised to be polite and trusting, and they are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know where to turn, or may be too ashamed at having been scammed, or may not realize they have been scammed. Some don’t report fraud crimes because they are afraid their families will think they are no longer competent to manage their own finances.
Most seniors know that no one should give out their credit card numbers or personal financial information over the phone, but no one is immune to a persuasive, credible-sounding scam.
“For as long as there have been telephones, there have been crooks trying to call and steal your money,” said a recent AARP report warning that phone scams are on the rise. “What is new is the sheer volume of unsolicited calls.” Americans received an estimated 29 billion such calls in 2016, and many of them were potentially criminal.
One of the best ways seniors and their families can avoid falling for a phone scam is to learn about some of the most common fraudulent tricks. The FBI has listed some of the typical pitches:
• “You don’t want to miss out on this high-profit, no-risk offer that expires soon.”
•“You’ve won a free gift, vacation, or prize, but you have to first pay a small postage and handling fee.”
•“To get the special offer, you’ll need to send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.”
Seniors are often targeted with scams offering free vacations, vitamins and health products, miracle cures, and even funeral and cemetery fraud. Remember the conventional wisdom: If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “Don’t let crooks scare you off from answering a call, advises AARP. “When phonies phone, hang up and give yourself time to think it over and check them out.”