Sadly, seniors are frequently targeted by criminals who perpetrate financial scams. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has made consumer protection and fraud prevention a major focus of its work, including identifying scams that target seniors. If you are a senior yourself, or are a loved one of a senior, you need to read the following summaries of the top 10 elder financial scams identified by the Special Committee on Aging:
- IRS Impersonation Scam –While there are multiple variations of the IRS impersonation scam, criminals generally accuse victims of owing back taxes and penalties. They then threaten retaliation, such as home foreclosure, arrest, and in some cases, deportation, if immediate payment is not made by a certified check, credit card, electronic wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card. he Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonation scam “the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS.” According to TIGTA, more than 2.1 million Americas have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials. More than 12,300 Americans have lost a total of more than $64.9 million from this scam.
- Robocalls — Robodialers can be used to distribute prerecorded messages or to connect the person who answers the call with a live person. Robocalls often originate overseas. Con artists usually spoof the number from which they are calling to either mask their true identity, or take on a new identity.
- Sweepstakes Scams and Jamaican Lottery Scams — In this scam, fraudsters generally contact victims by phone or through the mail to tell them that they have won or have been entered to win a prize. Scammers then require the victims to pay a fee to either collect their supposed winnings or improve the odds of winning the prize.
- “Can You Hear Me?” Scams – this scam involves calls in which the caller would simply ask “Are you there?” or “Can you hear me?” in order to prompt the recipient to say “yes.” Scammers would record the consumer’s voice, and thus obtain a voice signature, and use the recording to authorize unwanted charges on items like utility bills, phone bills, or even stolen credit cards.
- Grandparent Scams — In this scam, imposters either pretend to be the victim’s grandchild and/or claim to be holding the victims’ grandchild. The fraudsters claim the grandchild is in trouble and needs money to help with an emergency, such as getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, or leaving a foreign country. Scammers play on victims’ emotions and trick concerned grandparents into wiring money to them.
- Computer Tech Support Scams — The basic scam involves con artists trying to gain victims’ trust by pretending to be associated with a well-known technology company, such as Microsoft, Apple, or Dell. They then falsely claim that the victims’ computers have been infected with a virus. Con artists convince victims to give them remote access to their computers, personal information, and credit card and bank account numbers so that victims can be “billed” for fraudulent services to fix the virus.
- Romance Scams — Inevitably, con artists in these scams will ask their victims for money for a variety of things. Often con artists will ask for travel expenses so they can visit the victims in the United States. In other cases, they claim to need money for medical emergencies, hotel expenses, hospital bills for a child or other relative, visas or other official documents, or losses from a temporary financial setback.
- Elder Financial Abuse – This covers a wide range of activity that involves abuse of the authority a perpetrator has over the finances of an elderly victim. Perpetrators include family members; paid home care workers; those with fiduciary responsibilities, such as financial advisors or legal guardians or strangers who defraud older adults through mail, telephone, or Internet scams.
- Identity Theft — Identity thieves use a senior’s stolen identity to do things such as drain bank accounts, mark unauthorized credit card charges, and damage credit reports, but they also often defraud the government and taxpayers by using stolen personal information to submit fraudulent billings, or apply for an receive Social Security benefits to which they are not entitled. They may also use stolen personal information, including Social Security numbers (SSN), to commit tax fraud or to fraudulently apply for jobs and earn wages.
- Government Grant Scams — In the most common variation of this scam, consumers receive and an unsolicited phone call from con artists claiming that they are from the “Federal Gants Administration,” or the “Federal Grants Department” – agencies that do not exist. In another version of this scam, scammers place advertisements in the classified section of local newspapers offering “free grants,” and will request that victims wire money for processing fees or taxes before the money can be sent to them.
Contact a California Elder Law Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns relating to financial elder abuse, make sure you consult with a California elder law attorney. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.