Phone call scams against the elderly are an unfortunate fact of life these days. According to the Justice Department, approximately $3 billion is stolen from seniors each year. Older adults are frequently the targets of aggressive scams that are all designed to mislead, confuse, and scare them into revealing personal information. Millions of older Americans are victims of these scams each year.
In the case of gift card scams, the scammer is demanding some type of payment by asking for gift cards. In many cases, the scammer demands that the victim go out and buy gift cards to make bogus payments. The top gift card scam is the IRS Gift Card Scam; Americans have been conned out of close to $40 million from this particular scam. A bogus IRS agent calls, threatening arrest for tax evasion and then demanding payment with gift cards. The victim is told to repeat his or her gift card numbers over the phone which makes it possible for the scammer to drain the cards of their value.
Another IRS phone scam targeting seniors involves threatening phone calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The calls get increasingly more threatening, the messages saying that if the victim doesn’t call back and provide bank account information to transfer funds to pay back taxes, the victim will be arrested.
Another common scam targeting grandparents is known as “The Grandparent Scam”, and older adults living at home are especially vulnerable to this type of fraud. The way it works is that people with grandchildren receive a phone call in the middle of the night or early in the morning from someone claiming to be a grandson or granddaughter. The scammer claims to in some sort of trouble — he’s been arrested, mugged, or in some type of accident — and needs money ASAP to solve his problem. The grandparent, in turn, is disoriented, confused, and worried about the grandson and agrees to wire him money to take care of the problem.
The grandparent scam isn’t new
The grandparent scam and other phone scams targeting the elderly are not new, and it’s very unfortunate that so many people are taken in by these types of scams.
People who are experiencing some sort of financial problem and are looking for a fast solution to their financial straits are particularly vulnerable to any number of financial scams, from counterfeit prescription drugs and health insurance fraud to sweepstake and lottery scams. All too often, people have lost whatever savings they had to unscrupulous scammers.
Protect yourself with information
It is important that you be aware of the types of scams targeting the elderly and take the time to you sit down with your loved ones and discuss what to do in the event that they should receive a call, e-mail, letter or other type of correspondence that requests or demands money.
Make yourself aware of their investments and regularly monitor checking and savings accounts as well as credit and debit cards. Being knowledgeable about gift card scam calls and other types of fraud is the best way to avoid financial scams. If you think that an elderly loved one has been the victim of a scam, contact your local police department, the FBI, FTC, or the Attorney General’s office in your state.