Scammers Target Senior Citizens

Categories Extension Daily, Uncategorized

It seems like our personal information is out for everyone to see. Posts about our family, friends and lives are scattered across social media accounts. Our computers and phones can memorize passwords, addresses, even credit and debit card information. While this all seems convenient, it can pose potential harm.

Theresa Jones, a regional agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, provides research on the common types of scams that are apparent as well as advice on how to detect suspicious activity and take caution regarding your personal information.

It’s more common than you think…

Scammers target millions of U.S. residents each year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there has been a spike in one specific demographic, senior citizens. The Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline reported, “From January 2015 to December 2015, a 1,108 residents in the United States reported they were scammed.”

Scam Scenarios

Last year, the most common scam reported involved IRS imposters. In 2016, reports show debt collectors for federal jobs and student loans have been popular scams. Usually, the scammer contacts a person via phone call, claiming that they owe back taxes and penalties. Imposing fear into the victim is necessary, so scammers use threats of jail time.

Time or location could change the scenario the scammer chooses to use. “For instance, in areas where there are a lot of retired educated seniors, they could all be targeted by an investment fraud scammer. In most cases, it does not matter where seniors live  but, some scams may be more prone than others depending on location,” added Jones.

What to do

If you are approached by phone, or email about disclosing personal information, use caution. “Never give out personal information over the phone unless you know and trust who is on the other end of the conversation,” said Jones “Limit the amount of information you give.”

First, ask questions about the person requesting your information. Think, are they credible, does this organization exist and how can I verify they are legitimate? If you notice suspicious activity, without giving out any of your information, get as much info about as possible about the scammer so you can report the call.

If you feel you have fallen victim to a scam, it is important to report it to local authorities. Aside from reporting to your local police department, contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Better Business Bureau if it was a business. Not only does your report help you, but it spreads awareness and could possibly prevent further fraud cases.

‘Tis the season

During the holiday season, activity of your credit card is heightened. This threatens your accounts, especially when shopping online. “When shopping online, make sure you are on a secure website. Look for “https” in the URL box, ” The https means the website is a secure site and the financial information is protected,” said Jones.

Fraudulent organizations  that pose as charities also can scam you during this time. It is important to know which organizations are credible and trustworthy before you donate. Jones provided a few legitimate charity agencies you can donate to this holiday season; Salvation Army, Christmas Charities, St. Jude, Red Cross, Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer organization, and Rescue Mission.

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