Fraud affects up to 25 million people per year in the United States alone and older Americans are especially vulnerable. If you are age 60 or older—you are at an increased risk of being a target of con artists who sell fake products and services by email or telephone. The good news is that older Americans are more likely to report fraud which is one of the best ways to stop this abuse. That said, FirstLantic wants to make sure that you are not a victim in the first place. And with tax season right around the corner, it is important to know that the IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. The IRS provides more information on other things to watch out for here >
So, what are some other common fraudulent schemes and how do you protect yourself if you do become a target? While we don’t want you to be paranoid that everyone is out to get you, we do want to encourage you to use caution and question things that seem too good to be true or are simply out of the ordinary.
Many of us have received emails where we don’t recognize the sender. If that is the case, it could be a scam. Even those of us that are internet savvy can fall prey to phishing schemes. For example, the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. For example, you may receive an email that Federal Express is trying to confirm your address because a package was not able to be delivered or your bank suspects that someone has hacked into your account and they ask you to reset your password through a link. The best rule is to “not click until you check”. Immediately call the company or group that is supposedly sending the email and confirm that it is legitimate and never send confidential information via email especially your social security number. Also, beware of pop-ups that promise to protect you from viruses etc. They often are there to do just the opposite and either infect your computer with a virus or basically blackmail you into paying in order to get the virus off your computer.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs:
Many of us want to get the best deal possible but shopping online for prescription drugs is not a good idea. This not only could make you a victim of fraud, but it could be much worse. You could end up with medication that does not work and put your life in jeopardy as a result. So, while it may be tempting to pay less for medications, do not put your credit or your life at risk to get a better deal.
Contact from groups posing as Government agencies:
We mentioned this earlier but groups posturing as representatives from The Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or Medicare target seniors frequently. They send phony emails or make fake phone calls, telling victims they owe back taxes or are due a refund and they request personal information in order to resolve the issue. However, legitimate government agencies would never ask for that sensitive information over the phone or via email so don’t fall for it. Report suspicious calls to the Social Security Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website.
Requests for money from fake relatives:
Sometimes fraudsters will go as far as to pretend to be calling on behalf of a relative that has been in an accident or been robbed and needs money right away. If you receive a call like this, you should never react without confirming. They might even tell you that you have to keep this confidential because they are afraid of retribution. Again, this is another trick to get you to act first and confirm later.
While we all want to do our part to help others that are suffering, don’t contribute to a charity unless you check it our first. It is easy to find out about a charity through organizations like Charity Finder or Guidestar.
Also, beware of groups asking for money to help victims of a natural disaster. It is sad but there are plenty of con artists that will prey on the good will of people after a disaster strikes. Again, only contribute to a reputable and well-known organization or do your homework first if you have never heard of them. You can also find out more information by using the IRS’s tax exempt organization search.
If you are actually the victim of a disaster yourself, use the National Council on Aging tool to find legitimate help with relief.
Report a problem immediately:
Unfortunately, there will always be disreputable people looking to take advantage. Many of them think that older people are easy prey because they are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit. However, you can take precautions and if you are targeted, you should never be embarrassed or ashamed to report it. We have included resources below that will help you to stay informed about potential scams and agencies that you can call if you do have an issue. The only way that we can ever reduce fraud is to report a problem when we see it and hopefully, we can protect another potential victim as a result.
Only two methods of voting exist in the U.S. — in person at a government-sanctioned location or via absentee ballot using the U.S. Postal Service. If an unsolicited caller offers to register someone, hang up and contact the local election commission or call the Department of Justice at 800-253-3931 toll free.
Senate Special Committee on Aging:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: