With a new year comes a new wave of scammers looking to strike. Unfortunately, it seems that no matter the year our senior population all too frequently falls victim to numerous types of scamming schemes. Now is the perfect time to review the more common fraud complaints, and touch base on some tips for avoiding senior scams in particular. As the senior population continues to age, this is another aspect of home care that cannot be taken for granted, year round.
Robocalls to Seniors
The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) reports that robocalls are the number one complaint filed to their office every year, making up 60% of all complaints registered. You read that right- 60%! We’ve all gotten those calls where you pick up the phone to hear a recorded message on the other end of the line, instead of a real person. That’s a robocall.
What can be more shocking to know is that in our attempts to prevent these scams, we may be harming ourselves and our loved ones. According to Dan Hastings, a security researcher at NCC Group (a firm specializing in cyber security and risk mitigation), some of the apps we download to block these robocalls may actually be working against us. Many of the top robocall blocking mobile apps on the market actually share phone numbers, device type and software data with analytics firms. These firms then distribute this information to companies, such as Facebook without your consent.
Other Senior Scams to Avoid
As frustrating as robocalls are, there are others to watch out for that have the potential to be just as harmful. According the seniorplanet.org, the following were 2019’s top scams targeting seniors:
- Social Security Scams–
2019 brought about twenty three times as many social security scams as compared 2018. And nearly 10% of all phone call scams were to seniors, stating that their social security number had been ‘suspended’ or ‘compromised’.
Rest assured and remember, that the Social Security Administration will NEVER call you about your social security number. They only send notifications via U.S. mail. It’s not uncommon to hear that some of these scammers resort to threats of filing lawsuits if no payment is made immediately. Please ensure your senior knows when to become suspicious and hang up the call.
- Tax Scams–
The months of January to April can bring out fake calls from people claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These calls state that you owe back taxes, and payment is needed immediately to avoid penalties. Never return or pursue a call claiming to be the IRS. Instead, you should contact the IRS personally at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS also has information and detailed instructions about what to do if you are a victim of fraud.
- Credit Card Offers–
These robo calls are typically selling unsolicited credit card offers in order to gain personal financial details. Never accept a credit card offer over the phone.
- Debt Related Calls–
Mortgage- related debts and consumer debts are often easy fraud cover ups. These are usually presented as debt consolidation opportunities for things such as credit cards, car loans or medical debt.
- Free Offers or Giveaways–
These types of scams don’t rely on fear tactics, instead they attempt to appeal to a person’s wants and desires. Always remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, then it usually is.
Avoiding Scams This Year
There are a handful of apps that can be downloaded to prevent these calls from making it to your phone. A few options include:
- Hiya Caller ID and Spam Blocker
An easy to use app with no fees.
- Nomoroto Robocall Blocking
A low-cost robocall blocking app that stops scammers after a single ring.
- Robokiller Spam Call Blocker
Give them a taste of their own medicine! If nothing else, this clever blocker can be installed for its sheer entertainment value.
As mentioned in the beginning, you want to ensure the robocall blocker app you choose does not share your phone data prior to download.
It really is unbelievable how many scams are out there, and how easy it can be to be misled. All too many people fall victim every year, especially those seniors living at home by themselves. Keep in mind that the Social Security Administration does not “suspend” a person’s social security number for any reason- this will always be a scam.
Other red flags include threatening voicemails and a time limit assigned to paying (often immediate). Most scams rely heavily on threats to scare people into taking action, and/or a time crunch to get money or other personal information into the scammers hands right away. It’s important for seniors to know that government agencies do not operate this way. They will always communicate through writing. So if you or a loved one ever has questions about potentially fraudulent activity, you can always reach out to the Internal Revenue Service via phone or www.irs.gov.