5 Tips to Help Seniors Fight Identity Theft, Fraud, and Scams

Chad Murin, executive director of Crane’s Mill, shared the following in this month’s Millstream resident newsletter:

I would like to devote April’s Millstream article to an issue that has increasingly affected many residents in recent months: identity theft, fraud and scams. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, individuals over the age of 60 are targets of 49% of telemarketing scams involving medical care services and products, 41% involving sweepstakes and prizes and 40% involving magazine sales. Over the past few months, a significant number of residents have received mail, emails and phone calls that attempted to gain bank account information, social security numbers, Medicare/health insurance information, payment through money orders (the “Grandparent” scam) payment through fake sweepstakes (i.e. fraudulent Publisher’s Clearing House), and payment for fake debt (ex. unpaid taxes).

In addition to scheduling Fraud and Scam Prevention seminars for residents in the coming months this year, we have also ordered educational materials about this subject that will be available to residents free of charge in the very near future. All residents will be notified when these materials arrive.  In the meantime, I hope you will consider the following tips for protecting yourself from the increasing amount of scams and fraud attempts that are being directed towards seniors:  

Tip #1: NEVER give personal information (ex. bank account information, credit card/debit numbers, and social security number) to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and know with certainty that you have reached the correct agency. 

Tip #2: Be highly skeptical of sweepstakes, lotteries and unsolicited offers. Those that require you to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed “prize” are scams. Often, a check will be sent for deposit into an individual’s bank account. The (fake) check will be rejected within a few days by the banking institution, but in that time, the scammers will have collected money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize.

Tip #3: Be aware of the “Grandparent scam.” This scam is occurring with alarming frequency. Scammers are experts at posing as a loved one, relying on an individual’s heartfelt connection with their grandchildren to cloud judgement. The scammers may have accessed your grandchild’s personal information to gain information that can help them present authenticity. The scammer, posing as a grandchild, will claim to be in need of money for an unexpected financial problem and are requesting urgent (and confidential) assistance from you, the grandparent. Before responding, look up your grandchild’s phone number yourself or call another family member to verify your grandchild’s whereabouts. 

Tip #4: Don’t trust a name or number. Scammers use official-sounding names, as well as stationary, in order to gain one’s trust. It is illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with, or an endorsement by, a government agency or any other well-known organization. No matter how convincing their story, they are lying. No legitimate government official will ask you to send money to collect a prize, and they will not call to collect your debt. To make their call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code. For example, even though it may look like they are calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Tip #5:  If you think you have been scammed, inform a trustworthy friend, family or staff member as soon as possible. You are not alone, and waiting to address the potential fraud could make the situation worse.

Chad Murin
Executive Director, Crane’s Mill Retirement Community

Please Report Scams

If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261
  • Go online: ftc.gov/complaint

Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a copmlaint, you can help the FTC’s investigators identify the imposters and stop them before they can get someone’s hard-earned money. It really makes difference.