Yearly, millions of seniors become the victim of a financial scam or scheme, causing the loss of money, trust, privacy or safety. In fact, chances are you know someone who has been affected by scams, have seen a family member’s social media page that has been hacked, or have received a spam call or message yourself.
No matter where you look, scammers and con artists seem to be out there lurking, waiting for the next person to target. Fortunately, being aware of common identity theft and elder fraud techniques can help you avoid them.
People of all ages can be scammed; however, seniors are often targets for fraud because of their trusting and polite nature. They may also be targeted because they typically own their home, have good credit, and have financial savings.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to pretend they are you in order to drain your accounts, open credit cards, or even get medical treatments. In fact, did you know that, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network’s 2021 Data Book, 1.4 million complaints of fraud were reported? This made up 25% of all complaints.
What are the common types of identity theft, how can you protect yourself, and what can you do if you think you’ve been targeted? We’re sharing the information you need to know below.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network report, the top form of identity theft was Government Documents or Benefits Fraud. This was followed by Credit Card Fraud. Some other notable forms you may find include:
- Loan or Lease Fraud
- Phone or Utilities Fraud
- Bank Fraud
- Employment or Tax-Related Fraud
These, however, aren’t the only types of identity theft. Others may include email or social media, evading the law, insurance, medical services, online shopping or payment accounts, securities accounts, and more.
If you are concerned about identity theft, follow these tips.
- Never give out personal information
- Don’t give out credit card information over the phone
- Never carry your Social Security number or card on you
- Lock banking information away
- Shred important documents
- Enable two-factor authentication for logging into websites or apps
- Change any passwords that are part of a security breach
- If needed, freeze your credit files with credit bureaus
- Check your credit yearly
- Create complex passwords
According to U.S. News & World Report, you can report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), proving to businesses that someone stole your identity. You can also place fraud alerts on your credit report, request fraudulent information be removed, and file a police report, especially if you know who committed the crime.
Sentinel shares there were over 984,000 imposter scam reports and that about 1 in 5 people lost money. Imposter scams were also shown to be the number one cause of fraud in 2021.
Being aware of scams can help you spot them – and stop scammers in their tracks – before you’ve been taken advantage of. Learn more about scams, protecting yourself, and reporting them below.
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, some of the most common types of scams include:
- Charity scams, often present during holidays and after natural disasters and emergencies
- Debt collection, debt relief or debt settlement scams
- Romance scams, which usually occur online in an attempt to access your money
- Sweepstakes or lottery scams
- Grandparent scams, where scammers pose as grandchildren in trouble to get money or gift cards from you
- And, of course, imposter scams, convincing you to send money by pretending to be someone you know and trust, like a government agency, police officer, employee of the state, etc.
Other types of scams, like tech support scams, Medicare scams, mortgage scams and more also exist, so be cautious anytime you feel even slightly unsure.
Protecting yourself from scams is a lot like protecting yourself from identity theft, but you can also take it one step further. Before acting on a potential scam:
- Raise a red flag about a sense of urgency
- Use the internet to research
- Get a second opinion
- Monitor your bank account or sign up for fraud alerts
- Evaluate websites you’re purchasing from
- Never send money to people you don’t know
- Do not complete wire transfer requests
- Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is
- Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry
What should you do if you find out you’re the target of a scam, or that you’ve been scammed? Just like with identity theft, there are a couple of things you should do right away, including submitting a complaint with the FTC, contacting the police, and reporting it to your state attorney general.
For more information on how to avoid identity theft and senior scams, or for ways you can keep yourself or a loved one safe, contact our team. For additional senior resources, visit our other blog posts today.
Waterstone at Wellesley offers independent living and assisted living options in Wellesley, on the Bank of the Charles River. Schedule a visit today to experience our lifestyle and learn how we help seniors thrive.