8 Scams That Target the Elderly

According to New York State’s Division of Consumer Protection, there are several scams that target the elderly. These include:

  1. Grandparent scam – Suspects will call or email requesting money be wired immediately to assist a loved one.
  2. Medical device scam – Even though the medical device is offered “free”, once an unsuspecting recipient of these robo-calls is transferred to a live agent, they are bullied into giving their credit card and personal information.
  3. Ghosting scam – Once someone dies, these scammers commit identity theft by using their personal information to open credit cards, etc.
  4. Jury duty scam – Callers will threaten individuals with fines because of failure to report to jury duty. They’ll try to obtain personal information, such as a Social Security number and date of birth.
  5. Sweepstakes scam – Typically, suspects will request personal and financial information for a fee to enter the sweepstakes which they then use to clean out a victim’s bank accounts.
  6. Funeral notification scam – A suspicious email that appears to come from a legitimate funeral home will instruct victims to click on a link which will then cause malware to be downloaded onto the victim’s computer.
  7. IRS scam – Callers will threaten victims indicating a payment is overdue and request immediate payment via credit card. Authorities warn that suspects may even have the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  8. Free grant scam – Typically advertised for home repairs and loans, scammers request personal and banking information for the “processing fee”. They actually want access to withdraw victims’ funds.

The Division offers some tips to avoid scams:

  • Hang up without pressing a key if you receive an unsolicited phone call.  If you do take the call, be sure to identify the caller and the company represented. Also always get a phone number for the business.
  • Never provide personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and Medicare number.
  • Contact your telephone provider to block “robocall” numbers. Avoid paying for blocking services since robocall numbers displayed on caller IDs change frequently.
  • Install a firewall and anti-virus/anti-spyware software to protect your email account from being used by scammers. Also keep all of your software updated.
  • Do not open attachments from strangers or any emails that seem suspicious. Attachments sometimes contain programs that allow scammers to gain access to your computer.
  • Avoid listing birth date, maiden name, or other personal identifiers of loved ones in obituaries as such information is useful to identity thieves.
  • Do not click or open files in unfamiliar emails to avoid downloading unwanted malware.
  • Do not respond to guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.
  • The IRS usually initiates first contact about unpaid taxes through U.S. mail, never by phone or email.
  • The IRS never asks for payment using a wire transfer or a pre-paid debit card.
  • Call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 if you think that you may owe taxes.
  • Protect your personal information by storing it in a safe and secure place. Do not keep important account numbers or data in purses, wallets, or smartphones.
  • Remember that phone calls can be deceiving. Scammers now use sophisticated technology to manipulate their area code in caller ID systems.
  • Do not pay money for a “free” government grant. Anytime you are asked to make a payment to receive a government grant, it is a scam.



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