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Use These Tips to Avoid Being Scammed and Give Tricksters A Run for Their Money

Updated: Apr 1

According to The Federal Trade Commission, FTC, scammers stole more than $10 Billion during 2023. That is a 14% increase from the previous year. Changing technology is making it easier for these dishonest people to separate us from our hard-earned money. Email, text, and social media have become the preferred method of con artists to contact a target for a scam. However, there are plenty that still use the telephone to initiate their fraud. The top scam is still fake investment schemes with imposter scams close in 2nd place. The best way to protect yourself against being a victim of a scam is to educate yourself on the types of scams and typical behaviors a con artist uses.

Below are some of the current scams, signs it is a scam, and some general steps you can take to keep you safe from tricksters.

Why People Over 55 Are Con Artist's Preferred Marks

  1. In general, seniors are less knowledgeable about technology.

  2. Seniors are more likely to be home during the day to answer calls.

  3. Seniors often have more savings & assets, good credit scores, and own their own home.

  4. Seniors are, in general, more trusting of people.

  5. Seniors with cognitive or physical difficulties can be less likely to use their best judgment which makes them easier to deceive.

  6. Seniors often don't report being a scam victim out of shame, fear of being seen as incompetent, losing their independence, or simply not knowing how to file a report.


Current Scams to Watch out for:

  1. Grandparent Scams For this scam, a caller claims that a grandchild or other family member is in trouble in some way. they may say that the family member is in jail, has been in an accident, or even that they have been kidnapped. They then ask you to send money to help. They can claim to be the police, a doctor from a hospital, or they may pretend to be the family member themselves since today's technology can mimic anyone's voice. The sign that this is a scam may come in the way they ask you to send the money. They can ask you to send it via Western Union, buy gift cards and then give them the numbers on the back of the card, to pay via cryptocurrency, or in some very brazen cases to give cash to a ride-share driver they send to your house. These types of transactions make it difficult or impossible to trace the scammers once you have given them the money and why they choose these methods. If you get a call like this hang up and contact your family member yourself to put your mind at ease because this is almost definitely a scam call.

  2. Government Imposter scams In this scam, a caller will claim to be a representative of a trusted agency. They can claim they are from Medicare, the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or the FBI. if they claim to be Medicare or SSA they will say there is a problem with your account and ask you to verify personal information. If they claim to be the IRS or FBI they will claim that you are behind in taxes and they are sending someone to arrest you if you don't pay immediately. Real law enforcement and federal agencies will NEVER call and threaten you. If you get a call like this, hang up immediately.

  3. Fake Tech Support The scammer will claim to be from a computer company such as Microsoft or Apple and tell you your computer has a virus or in danger of being infected. They will try to trick you into downloading what they claim is antivirus software but is in reality the very thing you are trying to avoid. That link they send you is usually a virus or malware which allows them to access your computer and steal your personal details or bank information. Or they will try to sell you a subscription to antivirus programs and get you to pay by giving them your credit card information which they will use to make fraudulent charges. The last tactic they may try is to get you to give them remote access to your computer so they can install a program for you. What they really do is install spyware to capture your information. This scam can be either from a phone, a pop-up ad, or a chat window. The real Microsoft or Apple would never reach out to individual customers this way.

  4. Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam Someone using this scam will contact you and tell you have won a prize from some sort of contest, sweepstakes, or lottery. They will tell you to claim this prize you must first pay the taxes on the value of the prize. They will ask you for bank information or other forms of payment such as mentioned previously. This is not how a legitimate contest would work. Yes, in some cases there may be taxes required on winnings. However, you do not pay it upfront. If you win a legitimate prize over $600, you will be sent a form W-2G to be filed along with your federal income taxes. Remember... If you have to PAY, it's not a PRIZE!

  5. Romantic Scams This type of scam is also sometimes called Catfishing. Here a con artist will create a fake identity online for dating apps or other social media. They will create the illusion that you are in an online relationship to gain your trust. However, they will somehow never be able to speak on the phone or meet in person for a variety of excuses. This is because they don't want you to find out who they really are. At some point, they will find a reason to ask you for a sum of money. They can say it is for all manner of reasons from a sick relative, car trouble, or even to travel to finally meet you. Once you have sent the money, they will disappear and cease all contact with you or find more and more reasons to ask for more money. The way to avoid this scam is to make it a point to never give money to anyone you don't know in person.

General Guidelines to Avoid Being Scammed

  • Unless you have initiated the call, NEVER give any personal information over the phone. This includes your social security number, your date of birth, your Medicare number, and your credit card or bank account numbers.

  • Honest and legitimate companies and businesses will never demand, pressure you, or threaten you into sending money.

  • Legitimate companies don't take gift cards. cryptocurrency, or wire transfers as payment over the phone.

  • An automated/robocall is almost always a scammer. A telltale sign it's a robocall is that brief moment of silence after you answer a call or a clicking sound before the other party speaks.

  • Don't return one ring calls unless you know the number. Scammers will let the call ring once and hang up in the hope you will call back to a number that is usually out of country or a hotline that charges a connection or per minute fee.

  • Don't follow recorded messages that call you and ask you to "press 1 to speak to an operator" or "press 2 to be put on a do not call list"

  • Ask questions. a legitimate company will take the time to answer your questions and/or give you time to think.

  • Put your telephone number on the do not call registry at to keep legitimate telemarketers from calling. This will mean any calls you still receive are most likely a scammer.

  • The simplest way to avoid scams is to just not answer any call for which you don't recognize the number calling. A real caller will leave a message.

  • Get skeptical and don't trust any unsolicited calls.

  • Remember the 4 P's of Scammers: 1. They PRETEND to be a real company or agency 2. They say there is a PROBLEM or a PRIZE 3. They PRESSURE you to do something immediately and don't want you to hang up 4. They ask you to PAY in a specific way

  • Most importantly, if you do happen to get scammed do not feel ashamed or embarrassed. REPORT IT! You may get some of your money back and you may help catch the scammers which will keep someone else from being their victim.

How to Report if You Have been scammed

  1. The National Elder Fraud Hotline 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311)

  2. The Federal Trade Commission web complaint form or call (1-877-382-4357) The FTC website also has some additional steps you can take such as contacting your bank or credit card company to get your money back. Follow the link to read more.

  3. Local AARP Fraud Hotline (1-877-908-3360)

  4. Contact your local FBI field office, submit a tip online, or file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

  5. The Criminal Division of the Department of Justice has more information about reporting specific large scale frauds such as Disaster Relief fraud or Medicare fraud. Find out more here

Remember, scammers are clever and have had many years to perfect countless schemes to cheat you out of your money. But by educating yourself on their tricks and being vigilant, you decrease the likelihood of being their victim.

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