Why Finance Cons Target Older Adults, and How to Protect Yourself


While financial fraud can happen to anyone, older adults face unique challenges when it comes to scams, which are increasingly common among that age group.

Losses due to scams targeting those age 60 or older ballooned to $3.4 billion last year, an increase of 11% over the previous year, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The average amount lost was $33,915.

Tech support scams were reported to be most common among this demographic, followed by personal data breaches and confidence and romance scams, where the scam artist first gains trust before moving on to the topic of money. The FBI notes that older adults make an attractive target because they usually have savings, a home and other assets. They may be more trusting and less likely to report being scammed.

“They are willing to take the phone call,” says Mark Kapczynski, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Onerep, a technology company that helps people protect their privacy by removing consumers’ personal information online. “A fraudster can build an immediate sense of trust and execute the con,” he adds.

Adopt fraud-prevention habits

Staying safe starts with some basic data hygiene practices, says Alex Rhodes, a senior vice president at Adyen, a global financial technology platform. That includes always checking you’re on a secure website that starts with “https” when entering personal information, avoiding sharing personal data on public Wi-Fi, using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication.

Rhodes also suggests using a credit card when you shop online, as credit cards contain built-in fraud prevention tools such as the ability to dispute charges. If you send money directly from a bank account, it can be harder to recover.

He encourages people to review emails and text messages carefully to make sure they are not phishing attacks, which may look legitimate but are actually a scam artist’s attempt to collect personal information.

Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, says to always “go to the source” if you receive an unsolicited text, email or phone call claiming to be a familiar entity like your bank. Hang up or don’t respond, and contact the source directly instead, using information you can confirm to be true.

Rely on trusted contacts

Charles Weeks, a certified financial planner and founder of Barrister, a financial services firm, suggests being particularly aware of relationship-based scams, even those perpetrated by family members or other caretakers. “You can choose multiple people to watch your accounts so there are checks and balances,” he suggests, instead of putting all of your trust in just one person.

Taylor Patskanick, a technical associate at the MIT AgeLab who manages a research panel of adults age 85 and over, says community-based bystanders, such as a hairstylist or pharmacy technician, might be the first to notice these types of scams and could potentially intervene.

“We had a panelist talk about experiencing embarrassment and shame around falling for a scam. She didn’t want to tell her adult daughter so she told the local CVS pharmacy checkout person,” Patskanick says. If community members are equipped to respond and follow up, then they can serve as a helpful resource when it comes to fraud prevention, she says.

Talk about scams openly

At the same time, reducing shame around scams by talking more openly about them can also make it easier for those who experience fraud to come forward. “The No. 1 thing I stress to my clients is to have an open dialogue,” Weeks says. Bringing up news reports about fraud or discussing common scams or your own experience with scams can help.

Then, if you do learn that a loved one has experienced fraud, respond with empathy, he advises. “You can’t make them feel like they did something really wrong,” Weeks says. “Try to make them feel OK, and then try to fix it as quickly as possible.”

Kapczynski says an early morning text from someone claiming to be his boss nearly pulled him into a gift card scam. “Even the best of us can fall for it. We have to make it easier to ask for help,” he says.

Assess your vulnerabilities and lean on resources

While everyone is vulnerable to fraud, the most likely scams to impact each person depend on their lifestyle. “It really depends on how someone engages in the outside world,” Velasquez says. Someone who lives in an assisted living facility will have different vulnerabilities compared to a frequent traveler, for example. Customizing conversations around those vulnerabilities can help make them more useful.

Velasquez recommends freezing your credit to prevent people from opening up new accounts in your name. “If you are an older person, you’re not likely to be building credit, so it’s a great move to freeze your credit,” she says.

She also suggests leaning on existing resources, including her own organization, the Identity Theft Resource Center. “If you get an email and don’t know what to do, come live chat with us and send us a screenshot and we can tell you if it’s a known scam,” she says.

Other resources include the AARP Fraud Watch Network, the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI and Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League. “You don’t have to figure this out on your own,” Velasquez adds.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top