Common Types of Senior Citizen Money Scams & How to Avoid Them

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Technology has brought the world many good things, but it has also allowed for new types of scams to develop, and many Americans are at risk. As senior citizens become increasingly technologically equipped, their use of computers, smartphones, and social media put them at risk for scams. The best way to avoid succumbing to a scam is to stay informed, so here are some of the most common money scams that senior citizens and their loved ones could face.

IRS Scams

Though many people now own cellphones rather than a direct home line, scam calls are still prevalent and are unfortunately effective on the elderly. One such scam involves callers who pretend to be an IRS employee, saying that the person answering owes taxes and will face arrest if they don’t pay. What makes these calls so dangerous is that callers can even change their caller ID so that it appears to be coming from the IRS or another government agency.

This is why information and knowledge are crucial; the IRS only contacts people by mail, sending letters to those who owe taxes. They do not call individuals directly and demand immediate payment. If you have concerns about your tax status, you can call the IRS directly to verify your case. Many seniors face these and similar call scams that involve fake calls from cops, debt collectors, and federal investigators.

Medicare Card Scams

Another type of caller scam relates to a recent Medicare update. Many Medicare members hold ID cards that list the owner’s social security number. To prevent identity theft, the government instituted a measure to replace those IDs with new cards that don’t list a member’s social security numbers.

Medicare card scams involve a caller claiming to be a member of Medicare and stating that you need to pay for a replacement card or expedited service to receive the new ID. However, neither of these things are true, as the government is automatically sending updated cards to Medicare beneficiaries with no costs involved.

Grandparent Scams

Many senior citizens have family members, and grandparent scams take full advantage of these family bonds. The caller will reach out to a senior citizen late at night, claiming to be a relative in need of cash for an emergency. The caller will usually know a few specific details about the person they’re trying to be – often found on social media – which can make seniors second guess themselves, even when the caller’s voice doesn’t sound right.

When you combine the innate human desire to help others with a late night call where it’s hard to think things through, these scams can be incredibly effective. The best way to avoid these scams is to say that you need to consult with another family member first before hanging up. You can then take a few minutes to confirm the situation. If it’s true, you can call back and help, but you’ll more likely discover the scam and avoid trouble.

Tech Support Scams

As seniors become more tech savvy, they become at risk for tech support scams. While using a computer or phone, a message may pop up, claiming that the device has a virus and you should call a certain number. These messages may be an indication of ransomware, but in most cases they’re a pop up window that can scare you into seeking false tech support, paying for services you don’t even need.

However, the chances that a software company would inform you of a virus is unlikely. Instead of calling the number, you should consult a trusted computer professional. He or she will be able to look over your computer and tell you if you have a serious problem or not.

Scams can lead to seniors losing large portions of money, and more scams begin every day due to the proliferation of smart devices. Staying aware for yourself and the senior citizens in your life is key to avoiding these cons and keeping resources safe.