Common Scams That Target Retirees & Ways to Protect Yourself
Fraudsters pry on your desire to form close relationships later in life or may scare you to take immediate action by creating false threats of legal action. Many of the scams targeting retirees are impersonation scams where fraudsters gain trust by pretending to be a love interest, family member, government official, or lawyer. These fraudsters collect personal information to open credit cards or solicit funds in the form of cash, money order, payment apps, cryptocurrency, gift cards, or wire transfer.
Government Impersonation Scams
Government impersonation fraudsters call unsuspecting retirees pretending to be from a government agency, particularly from the IRS, Social Security, or Medicare office. These government imposters may falsely-claim you have unpaid taxes or threaten Medicare will be cut off if you don’t take immediate action. Fraudsters may demand payment or personal information leading to identity theft.
To protect yourself from government impersonation schemes, be mindful that:
- Government agencies will not require odd payment methods. Legitimate emails from official government agencies end in “.gov”. Fraudsters may create email addresses that sound official but end in things like “.com” or “.us”.
- The IRS will never initiate contact via phone.
- Scammers may use ‘spoof’ phone numbers to appear to be calling from Washington D.C. or your local area code.
Tech Support Scams
One of the most common schemes are Tech Support scams which prey on your lack of knowledge about computers and cybersecurity.
A pop-up or text message may appear on your phone, tablet, or computer telling you the device is damaged and needs to be repaired. When you call the support number provided, the fraudster may request remote access and demand a fee be paid. The fraudster may install malicious software on your device or steal your personal or financial information.
To protect yourself from tech support scams:
- Be mindful that fraudsters may falsely claim to be from reputable companies to gain your trust.
- Remember that reputable tech support companies will not ask you to pay with odd payment methods.
- Be assertive: if a caller claims there is an urgent problem, don’t be afraid to say “no”. There is no computer problem that can’t wait to be addressed.
- Call a reputable company on a phone number you have verified.
- Protect your personal and financial information over the phone, and by email.
Online Romance Scams
Romance scams occur when someone builds a romantic or deep personal relationship with you and begins asking for money. Online scammers often have fake identities and complicated backstories. Online romance scams start not only with dating profiles but are also initiated via social media or even online games. According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims lost $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2021 alone, more than in any other fraud category. Romance scams take many forms from asking you to invest in a business opportunity, or an urgent legal matter. Romance scams make you particularly venerable because fraudsters may share your personal information to utilize for other impersonation schemes.
You can protect yourself from romance fraudsters by:
- Withholding personal identifiable information online and with online relationships. This includes your home address, children and grandchildren’s information, educational background, etc.
- Not writing a check. Regardless of how legitimate the monetary need might seem, deny requests for financial assistance.
- Asking yourself, how well do you know this person? Can you verify their background? Have you met them in person?
- Getting a second opinion from friends or family about your love interest. Introduce the love interest to a friend or family member for their honest opinion.
Sweepstakes or Lottery Scams
In sweepstakes or lottery schemes, fraudsters call claiming you’ve won a prize, or lottery. To claim your winnings, you’re asked to provide funds upfront to cover the supposed taxes and processing fees. These scammers are known to call multiple times to solicit additional funds by claiming your winnings will arrive soon.
To protect yourself from sweepstake schemes, be mindful that:
- You should avoid sending funds, in any form, over the phone, or to persons you haven’t met.
- Fraudsters may falsely claim to be from well-known institutions, such as Publishers Clearing House, to build trust.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it may be a scam.
Gold Bar Scams
In gold bar schemes, fraudsters reach out with false claims of gold bars being shipped as an investment or inheritance. Like the lottery scheme, fraudsters ask for large amounts of money upfront. The fraudster may ask you to pay for shipping or taxes for non-existent gold bars.
Some variations of this scheme falsely claim the non-existent gold has been detained by Customs and requires immediate payment of fees or taxes to further defraud you.
To protect yourself from gold bar schemes, remember:
- You should avoid sending funds, in any form, to persons you have not met in person.
- If someone proposes an investment, particularly involving gold bars or those requiring funds urgently, discuss it with your Financial Advisor. It may be a scam.
The grandparent scheme pries on one of your most cherished relationships, your grandchildren. The scammer reaches out pretending to be your grandchild, or close personal relationship. They gain trust with the simple phrase, ‘Grandma, do you know who this is?’ In this scheme, the fraudster makes up a distressful situation, such as being stuck in jail, or behind on an important bill and asks for financial assistance. To avoid raising suspicions, the fraudster will ask for privacy. Another variation of this scheme may involve a lawyer claiming a grandchild or loved one has an impending lawsuit and needs funds immediately.
Protect yourself by:
- Asking the caller a few questions that only your grandchild, or loved one, would know.
- Before acting, hang up and call your grandchild or loved ones on a known and reliable phone number.
- When purchasing gift cards, do not read the card’s information over the phone.
Health Care Scams
There are a variety of health care-related schemes to defraud you, and the Medicare system. Commonly, a fraudster will impersonate a Medicare or hospital representative asking for personal information for immediate bill payment. Other health care scams advertise free or low-cost services, drugs or equipment and bill Medicare for the full amount.
Seniors are increasingly turning to the internet hoping to save money on their prescription drugs. Not only are you at risk financially, but you are also at risk of taking unsafe substances which may inflict medical harm.
To protect yourself from healthcare schemes:
- Ensure you are going to a trusted doctor and medical facility.
- Avoid purchasing prescription drugs over the internet.
- Avoid providing personal information over the phone, including insurance information.
- Put yourself on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov to avoid telemarketing calls.
Internet fraud can take on many forms, from online shops which sell you stolen goods to email phishing scams that contain fake links or encourage you to provide personal information.
Protect yourself from fake websites or phishing scams by being wary of:
- Websites where prices are surprisingly cheap.
- Sites with spelling errors in the URL or email addresses.
- Sites that require you to provide unnecessary information or unusual payment types.
- Links in website pop-ups or emails.
Charity frauds often solicit you to donate to fake charities, particularly after natural disasters. Scammers will encourage you to donate and use natural disasters to give a sense of urgency to the situation.
Tips to avoid donating to a fake charity:
- Be wary of persons asking for money over the phone or emails from unverified sources.
- Before donating, research charities on sites like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.
If you think a fraudster has tricked you into sharing your information or handing over money, you can report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Depending on the situation, you may also want to file a police report.
Working With Janney
Depending on your financial needs and personal preferences, you may opt to engage in a brokerage relationship, an advisory relationship or a combination of both. Each time you open an account, we will make recommendations on which type of relationship is in your best interest based on the information you provide when you complete or update your client profile.
When you engage in an advisory relationship, you will pay an asset-based fee which encompasses, among other things, a defined investment strategy, ongoing monitoring, and performance reporting. Your Financial Advisor will serve in a fiduciary capacity for your advisory accounts.
For more information about Janney, please see Janney’s Relationship Summary (Form CRS) on www.janney.com/crs which details all material facts about the scope and terms of our relationship with you and any potential conflicts of interest.
By establishing a relationship with us, we can build a tailored financial plan and make recommendations about solutions that are aligned with your best interest and unique needs, goals, and preferences.
Contact us today to discuss how we can put a plan in place designed to help you reach your financial goals.
Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, its affiliates, and its employees are not in the business of providing tax, regulatory, accounting, or legal advice. These materials and any tax-related statements are not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used or relied upon, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Any such taxpayer should seek advice based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.
1. “2021 Elder Fraud Report,” last modified March 1, 2022, at www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2021_IC3ElderFraudReport.pdf
2. “Top 5 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors Since 2015,” last modified September 21, 2021, at www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Fraud%20Book%202021.pdf
3. “Romance scams take record dollars in 2020”, last modified February 10, 2021, at www.ftc.gov/news-events/data-visualizations/data-spotlight/2021/02/romance-scams-take-record-dollars-2020
4. “Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors,” last modified April 20, 2022, at www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/top-scams-targeting-seniors/
5. The Top 5 Financial Scams Targeting Older Adults,” last modified July 27, 2022, at https://ncoa.org/article/top-5-financial-scams-targeting-older-adults
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