Millions of seniors are targeted by scammers every year. Not only are seniors more likely to be targeted, but they lose more money on average than younger victims.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that seniors lose $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation. Each year, scammers get more cunning with new ways to defraud seniors, and 2020 is no different.
Here are 4 senior scams to watch out for in 2020.
Fraudulent Social Security Calls
Fraudulent phone calls from people claiming to be from the Social Security Administration have become increasingly common. Posing as a representative of the SSA, the scammer attempts to get the victim’s Social Security number, date of birth, and other sensitive information. One common scam involves a phone call in which the scammer threatens legal action if the victim does not call a provided phone number. In another scam, the perpetrator pretends to help the victim activate a suspended Social Security Number. These scams can be so advanced; the call may even appear to be coming from the real Social Security hotline.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, hang up immediately. The SSA rarely ever contacts individuals by phone, and they do not threaten arrest or legal action. Suspicious or fraudulent calls can be reported to the SSA Office of the Inspector General.
All U.S. citizens over the age of 65 qualify for Medicare, making them easy targets for Medicare scams. According to AARP, Medicare fraud losses hit $60 billion in 2017 and have continued to rise. Medicare scams can happen over the phone, in the mail, and even in person. Phone call scams involve threatening Medicare coverage cancellation, verifying a new Medicare card number, and selling fraudulent insurance plans, such as supplemental or prescription drug plans, all in an attempt to obtain personal information and/or money from the victim. Victims may also receive a fake medical bill from an unknown health provider. Some scammers will even knock on the door to attempt to sell a fraudulent Medicare plan, medical equipment, or supplements.
It’s important to note that Medicare will never call you unless you initiated the request. You should also review your Medicare Summary Notices for any care that you did not receive. If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a Medicare scammer, contact the Office of Medicare’s Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Phishing emails are one of the easiest ways for scammers to gain access to sensitive personal and financial information. Phishing is an online scam in which scammers, disguised as legitimate companies, send emails that contain malicious links that enable them to obtain personal and financial information or install malware on the victim’s computer. Anyone can easily fall victim to a phishing scam, as the emails may look legitimate at first glance, even containing the impersonated company’s official logo.
In general, before clicking on any link in an email, take a minute to carefully review the email. Phishing emails will often have grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Double-check the sender’s email address. Even if the email appears to have come from someone you know, carefully review the email address to make sure it’s correct. If you suspect you have received a phishing email or have fallen victim to one, visit the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website to report the scam and find out the next steps you should take.
Fraudulent IRS Calls
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, more than 2.4 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials. Since 2013, taxpayers have lost more than $72.8 million to IRS scams. Scammers will usually threaten victims with foreclosure, arrest, or deportation for owing back taxes and demand that a payment is made immediately. Other IRS scams attempt to extract personal information from victims by offering a tax refund if the victim verifies their Social Security Number, date of birth, etc.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. The IRS will never call to demand payment using a specific method, such as prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. The IRS will never demand you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed, nor will they threaten to have you arrested or deported. Visit the IRS website for more information about common IRS scams and how to report suspected IRS fraud.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Others from Scams
In general, you should always be cautious when someone attempts to obtain sensitive personal and financial information from you, such as your Social Security Number or bank account information. If you suspect that you’ve received a fraudulent phone call or email, you can always contact the official phone number of the business or government entity that the scammer claims to represent. Learn the warning signs of common scams and make sure to share that information with family and friends.
Learn more about how to reduce scammer and spam phone calls.
Working with an experienced CPA can also help protect you from scams that target seniors. Marcia L. Campbell, CPA, helps safeguard the finances of seniors to protect them from fraudulent scams by providing proper financial planning and monitoring for any irregularities or signs that a scam has occurred. Marcia and her team can also help in the aftermath of a scam. We diligently work to protect the financial and physical wellbeing of our senior clients. Contact us at 951-686-3608 to find out how we can help you.