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Four Common Scams Targeted at Older Adults

How to Avoid Them

While anyone can get scammed, older adults are particularly vulnerable to this kind of crime, partially because they’re a heavily targeted population. The FBI estimates that fraudsters steal some $3 billion from seniors every year, and the problem is only expected to grow as the population ages.

Why do scammers target retirees? One reason is that older adults are more likely to have savings than younger people. Another is that fraudsters often take advantage of the values many seniors hold dearest, such as hospitality and the “Good Samaritan” instinct to help strangers in trouble.

Thankfully, you don’t have to become paranoid or mistrustful to sidestep swindlers. Here are some common scams and the simple precautions you can take to avoid them.

Phony Romance

The scam: Dating and social media apps are great for finding friendship and romance. They’re also happy hunting grounds for fraudsters, who pose as interested romantic partners. Often charming, they will go to great lengths to win your trust before pleading some financial crisis that only you can solve — via an immediate bank transfer.

The solution: Stick to well-established dating sites that take their users’ security seriously. Don’t share financial information with anyone until you have established a trusting relationship with them offline. If someone asks for money, politely decline, break off contact and report them to the app or website’s support team.

Relative in Need

The scam: You receive a text message out of the blue from an unknown number. It’s your grandson on a borrowed phone. He broke down in the middle of nowhere and needs you to wire him some money to get his car fixed. He sounds scared and alone.

In truth, he’s a scammer looking to make a quick buck.

The solution: Scammers create a sense of urgency, playing on your fear that something terrible could happen to someone you love. If you really believe that the person is in danger, call another family member and, if necessary, the police. Otherwise, take some time to verify the messenger’s identity, asking questions only they would know the answer to. If in doubt, end the conversation.

Danger on the Doorstep

The scam: Criminals posing as government employees or home maintenance workers knock on your door. They’re here to repair your roof/gas supply/electrical wiring, which is in a dangerous state and requires immediate attention. Give them an advance payment, and they’ll start tomorrow. 

The solution: No credible agency or contractor would cold call you in this fashion, so be skeptical of anyone who does. If they insist your property is in immediate danger, you can insist on checking in with the police or city hall — at which point the scammers will most likely scurry off.

Cybercrimes

The scam: Tech-related fraud is one of the biggest dangers to older adults, who aren’t always savvy to the risks. Criminals posing as bank officials or computer specialists will send you an email alerting you to some urgent problem. The solution, they say, is straightforward — just click on a link and enter some personal information, such as your social security number or email password.

The solution: Don’t reply to emails asking for personal information. If you need to contact your bank or any other business, do it via the organization’s official webpage or over the phone. As a backup, install reputable antivirus software on your machine. This costs around $30 per year — a small investment next to what you could lose if a scammer gained access to your devices.

One of the best ways to stay safe from scammers is to live in a close-knit community with other seniors. Contact Prime West Knoxville today to find out more about our top-notch amenities and vibrant culture.


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