Elder financial scams are on the rise, with a nearly 50 percent increase in suspected fraud against seniors in 2023 (Thomson Reuters).  It’s more important than ever to protect the older people in our lives from these innovative scammers.

The #1 Elder Financial Scam

“The number one scam we see our members encounter is usually a type of technical support scam” said Danielle Crissey, Fraud Officer at Armco Credit Union.

A tech support scam occurs when hackers call or send pop-up messages on a computer asserting the victim’s device is infected. They then offer to “fix” the non-existent issue for a fee. Once they take control of the computer, they can steal personal data.

Crissey warns against unsolicited phone calls claiming to verify personal information. Scammers often exploit fears of computer viruses and take advantage of seniors’ limited tech literacy to gain remote access to sensitive data.

Her advice is to remain vigilant and skeptical when receiving calls requesting information.  “Be wary of any phone call that says they are calling to ‘verify’ your personal information, such as bank accounts, credit card numbers, Social Security number and street address,” she warns.

Since phone numbers can easily be spoofed, get into the practice of calling them back on the company’s main line, not the phone number they give you.  This adds an additional layer of protection. Don’t worry about appearing rude or skeptical. Legitimate businesses endorse this practice.

“If the credit union calls asking for personal information, we encourage members to get the employee’s name and extension, hang up and call our main phone number 724-284-2020. Dial the extension directly or ask for the employee by name.  Members who regularly use a branch should call that branch directly and speak to an employee they know.

“Members are not inconveniencing us when they are concerned about providing information when we call them and instead request to hang-up and call us back,” Crissey added, “In fact, we appreciate when they do so. It shows that our members are aware of common scams and are being diligent in protecting themselves.”

Five Additional Common Elder Scams

While tech support scams top the list, Crissey highlights five other common elder scams:

  1. Grandparent Scam
    Imposters pose as distressed relatives, requesting urgent financial assistance.
  2. Social Security Scam
    Victims are told their Social Security number is linked to a crime, and money must be paid to avoid arrest.
  3. Romance Scam
    A scammer builds a fake romantic relationship and then invents elaborate stories to coerce money from the victim.
  4. Bogus Healthcare Bills
    Scammers pose as Medicare reps or health care providers and ask for personal information, provide bogus services then send a bill. In another scenario, they contact seniors via phone, email, text and mail to steal seniors’ money and identity under the guise of “verifying” information or providing critical services.
  5. Dishonest Contractors
    Home improvement scams involve fake contractors providing unnecessary or shoddy services.

Protect Your Loved Ones

Crissey emphasizes the importance of staying informed and vigilant to protect seniors from financial scams.

  • Education: Engage in regular conversations about common scams and awareness building.
  • Check-ins: Maintain regular communication to stay ahead of suspicious activity.
  • Tech Literacy: Raise digital literacy levels among seniors to recognize and avoid scams.
  • Software and Payments: Teach about antivirus software, encourage password managers, and handle payments securely.
  • Monitoring: Review financial statements for questionable transactions.
  • Blocking Calls: Signing up for the Do Not Call registry and using call-blocking services.