Protecting Seniors from Rising Elder Financial Scams: Expert Insights

Elder financial scams have reached alarming levels, with a nearly 50 percent increase in suspected fraud against seniors in 2023, according to data from Thomson Reuters. This sharp rise follows a record-breaking year in 2022, which saw a 50 percent increase from 2021. In this article, we delve into the prevalent scams targeting the elderly and consult cybersecurity and fraud experts to gain insights into safeguarding our loved ones.

Cybersecurity expert Josh Amishav, Founder and CEO of Breachsense, a company specializing in monitoring the dark web and criminal marketplaces, identifies tech support scams as the most common threat to seniors. These scams involve hackers claiming that the victim’s device is infected with a virus and demanding money for a non-existent fix. Criminals exploit seniors’ fears over viruses to gain remote access and steal personal data, charging for services that are never rendered.

Dori Buckethal, Vice President of Risk & Fraud Solutions at Thomson Reuters, emphasizes the need for vigilance, cautioning against phone calls that claim to “verify” personal information, such as bank accounts, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers.

The ‘Grandparent Scam’

Amishav highlights another troubling trend known as the “grandparent scam.” Scammers impersonate distressed relatives, often posing as grandchildren, to request urgent financial assistance. Dr. Brian Callahan, a cybersecurity expert, notes that scammers may claim to be in far-away countries, emphasizing the urgency to trick seniors into making immediate money transfers without verification.

Social Security Scams

Callahan warns about the proliferation of Social Security card scams. Scammers inform victims that their Social Security number has been linked to a crime, threatening imminent arrest unless a sum of money is paid. These scams may involve false accusations of crimes such as tax evasion or drug smuggling.

Romance Scams on Dating Sites

Amishav points out the surge in romance scams on dating sites. Fraudsters exploit older adults’ vulnerability by establishing emotional connections and then asking for money. Isolated seniors seeking companionship are particularly susceptible to these scams.

Healthcare Service Scams

Amishav notes an increase in healthcare and Medicare scams where fraudsters pose as Medicare representatives, gathering personal information and billing for bogus services. These scams leverage seniors’ concerns about healthcare access.

Home Improvement Scams

Another prevalent scam involves dishonest contractors posing as local home improvement providers. They either take money and vanish or perform subpar work. These scams pressure seniors into immediate, unnecessary repairs or upgrades to their homes.

Protecting Seniors: Expert Advice

To shield our loved ones from these scams, experts offer the following recommendations:

  • Educate: Regularly educate seniors about common scams to increase awareness.
  • Check-in: Maintain regular contact through phone or in-person visits to identify suspicious communications.
  • Teach Tech Smarts: Raise digital literacy levels among seniors to help them identify and avoid scams online.
  • Review Software and Handle Payments: Educate seniors about antivirus software and help them set up automatic billing or handle payments for such services.
  • Assist with Password Security: Encourage the use of password managers and two-factor authentication to protect personal information.
  • Set Up Notifications: Monitor financial statements for unusual transactions and odd transfers to unfamiliar entities.
  • Block Calls: Limit robocalls by signing up for the Do Not Call registry and use call-blocking services to reduce risk.

In conclusion, education and vigilance are crucial in protecting seniors from these increasingly common scams. By proactively discussing scam awareness and tactics, we can empower seniors to identify and evade fraud. This proactive defense is essential to prevent financial elder abuse, which is on the rise. With compassion and diligence, we can effectively safeguard the seniors we love.

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