Aug 08, 2023

How to Help Your Residents and Their Families Avoid Scams

Many of your residents are vulnerable to scams that could drain their bank accounts. According to Consumer Affairs, each year, more than 3.5 million older adults are victims of financial exploitation, costing them more than $3 billion. Knowledge about common scams and red flags can help seniors avoid becoming the next victim.

Educate Your Residents on Common Scams

Certain scams are quite common. By learning about the most common scams, seniors can avoid them. According to the National Council on Aging, the top scams against older adults are government impersonation scams, sweepstakes and lottery scams, robocalls, tech support scams and grandparent scams.

  • Government Impersonation – Scammers may pretend to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration, Medicare or other government agencies. Sometimes they say they need to confirm information, possibly to give the person something. Other times, they are very threatening, claiming the person owes money and will be arrested if payment is not made immediately. Some scammers spoof official phone numbers, making this ploy even more convincing.
  • Sweepstakes and Lottery – In this scam, the target is told they have won money, and they just need to pay taxes (or some other fee) upfront so they can claim the prize.
  • Robocalls – Scammers may call and ask, “Can you hear me?” The target says “yes,” and this is recorded. The scammers can then use the recording to make it seem like the target is authorizing charges.
  • Tech Support – In this scam, a pop-up message appears on your computer telling you there is an urgent problem that needs to be fixed by calling a number provided. If you call the number, the person who answers will request remote access to your computer, allowing them to do what they want with it, or demand a payment for assistance.
  • Grandparent Scam – In this scam, someone calls pretending to be the target’s grandchild. They may say something like “Do you know who it is?” to get the target to guess a grandchild’s name, or they may find information online. They come up with a story about being arrested, stranded abroad or some other urgent situation and request money. In the latest iterations of this scheme, scammers can even use AI-generated voice or video clips of loved ones.

Keep Up with New Scams

Although some scams are evergreen favorites, scammers are always changing their tactics in the hopes of duping new victims. For example, the FTC says that a recent scam involves free COVID tests. Scammers claim to be offering free COVID tests to Medicare beneficiaries, but they’re really just trying to get the victims’ Medicare information.

By spoofing phone numbers, scammers conceal their true identity and show up on your caller ID as calling from your bank, the Internal Revenue Service or even from a healthcare provider’s office. Verifying the phone number doesn’t help because they make it look like they are calling from the correct number.

New AI-enabled voice scams (mentioned earlier) are even more concerning. Scammers only need a 3-second voice clip to clone someone’s voice according to McAffee. Social media is littered with voice clips so it’s not hard to find targets. Scammers clone the voice of a child or grandchild and then trick adults into thinking their loved one is in harm’s way to secure cash.

Check the FTC’s Consumer Alerts page regularly for new developments and ploys and pass this information along to your residents.

Practice Safety Tips

In addition to knowing which scams are common, seniors also need to know how to stay safe. Here are some tips to share:

  • Don’t give out your Medicare or financial information. If someone calls, texts or emails and asks for this, don’t provide it. It’s probably a scam, so hang up. If you’re worried there’s a real issue, call the organization in question using contact information that you’ve obtained on your own.
  • Don’t wire money. Scammers often ask for wire transfers. They may even send you a check and then ask for some of the money to be wired back. The check will bounce, but the money you’ve wired will be gone by then.
  • Don’t click links in emails and text messages. If it looks like a known person is asking you to click something, call them first to verify it’s legit.
  • Hang up and call back. If a call seems questionable or you’re not sure, hang up and call them back using the phone number you know is correct.
  • Don’t send gift cards. Government agencies never ask for payment via gift card. If someone asks for this, it’s a scammer.
  • Be careful about what you share. For example, you want to post information about your grandkids online, but scammers can use this in grandparent scams.
  • Ask for help. Some scammers use threats to scare people into falling victim. If you think you’re being scammed, ask someone for help.
  • Report scams. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311.

Get the Word Out

When it comes to scams, education is the key to staying safe. Spread the word about common scams and ways to stay safe. Residential care facilities can hold workshops, post signs and share articles (including this one) in newsletters and emails to residents and their families. You can also leave printed tips/articles in your entryway and other shared areas.

Scammers are a menace, but by spreading the word, you can help the people around you avoid scams.