Effective Tactics Against Scams Targeting Seniors

September 11, 2023 |
Article | 5 min
| Personal Insights

Protecting our seniors from scams is crucial. Learn effective defensive tactics against scams targeting seniors to safeguard their finances. Don't let scammers take advantage!

After a life of hard work, many baby boomers are now transitioning into their golden years. Perhaps you have already retired or are creating a career exit plan now. Either way, securing your financial situation is critical as you enter this new phase of life. Unfortunately, fraudsters are out there, and they wouldn’t mind taking advantage of the value you’ve accrued from your life’s work. In fact, to this end, they often implement scams targeting seniors.

Fraud targeting seniors has become increasingly brazen and more commonplace. You may likely encounter one of these scams at some point in the future. Luckily, most of these scams come in a recognizable format—but only when you know what to look for.

You can help safeguard your finances from bad actors and mitigate your risk by understanding the common tactics they use and the potential legal protections you have if an incident occurs. Your financial future depends on your understanding these schemes and protect your assets ahead of time, so you can think clearly and act quickly to avoid fraud.

Pleased senior couple meeting with advisor

Common Scams Targeting Seniors to Understand

Here are some of the most common scams you may encounter.

Telemarketing Scams

Telemarketing is one of the most common scam formats. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to determine if the person on the other end of the line is a scammer, as they are often well-practiced at coming off as legitimate. However, there are a few red flags to be aware of.

High-pressure sales tactics that push you to make a purchase immediately should serve as a first warning. This red flag is especially concerning if the caller asks you to provide personal or payment details over the phone.

Also, be suspicious of any salesperson who becomes evasive when questioned on potentially verifiable information. Finally, be aware that offers that sound too good to be true likely are. When in doubt, don’t give out critical information.

Fraudsters Targeting Investors

Investment fraud is one of the most insidious scams targeting seniors you may encounter. Fraudsters play on most people’s lack of expertise in the investment sphere to offer impossible returns. The actual investment may be a Ponzi scheme or just a front.

Simply put, the goal is to get you to provide access to your funds so they can steal them. Always insist on verification of the professional reputation and credentials of any financial professional you work with.

Fake Prize Offerings

Fake offers—such as winning sweepstakes, lottery tickets, or other contests—may ask you to send personal details or authorize payment processing. Verify the legitimacy of any organization announcing your supposed win before you respond.

Grandparent Scams Targeting Seniors

Grandparent scams are when a fraudster poses as your beloved child or grandchild to urgently request emergency money from you. Scammers typically do this through text or email, though new technology allows scammers to sound like they’re speaking in your loved one’s voice. If the call feels suspicious, reach out through a secure channel to your child or grandchild to make sure it’s really them on the other end.

Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud is one of the most harmful scams you may encounter, as it can impact more than just your finances. Scammers may be offering false supplemental coverage to gain authorization to charge your bank account; conversely, this type of fraud also happens when a bad actor bills a provider or Medicare for unreceived services.

Phishing Scams Targeting Seniors

Phishing scams aim to convince you that you’re speaking with a legitimate financial entity to obtain and exploit sensitive personal information. These scams typically occur through email; however, phishing scams can also happen through phone calls, text messages, or even social media messages.

These scams often try to leverage a sense of urgency or consequence to get you to act fast. Slow down and call the institution you think you’re dealing with to confirm the information first.

Smart Moves for Seniors

If you’ve recently retired, then you’ve probably undergone a significant financial and lifestyle transformation in the past few years. This may mean you’re preparing for possible financial futures you’ve never truly considered—such as generational wealth transfers, significant charitable giving or estate planning. You may find yourself in uncharted waters navigating all these financial structures, thus leaving you vulnerable.

With this vulnerability in mind, you should develop a cautious approach to communications from unknown sources. If you’re dealing with unsolicited messages—via any channel—always verify that you’re talking to a reputable individual before sharing personal information.

Also, trust your gut. If you’re feeling pressured to close a deal—or get a funny sense about someone’s sales tactics—then it’s time to take a step back. You could potentially even ask the opinion of a reliable friend, family member, or professional in your life.

It can be empowering to know that you have digital tools on your side. Check your financial accounts frequently—you can do this right through your bank’s app—to catch any potential unauthorized transactions early. Similarly, consistently monitor your credit report to ensure that there’s no suspicious activity.

Know there are laws to protect you. Knowing the existing legal avenues for potential restitution is another way to protect your financial interests from scams targeting seniors. There are several laws in place designed to prevent fraud and protect victims. Here are three key pieces of legislation you should know about:

  • The Elder Justice Act: This law is designed to prevent senior abuse, neglect, and exploitation by improving the justice system’s response to reports. The act provides resources and support for elder abuse prevention programs, training for professionals who work with older adults, and enhanced penalties for offenders.
  • Senior Safe Act: This federal law encourages financial institutions to report suspected monetary abuse by removing potential penalties for false claims. It provides immunity to individuals who report such cases in good faith, thereby encouraging reporting and early intervention to prevent financial harm to seniors.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): The FCRA grants you various rights, including the right to access your credit reports, dispute inaccurate information, and receive disclosures about adverse actions taken based on your credit history. The goal of this act is to improve the accuracy and fairness of reports.

What to Do If Fraud Strikes

Now, just as it’s important to know how to avoid fraud, it’s also critical that you know how to respond should you fall victim. Acting quickly when you realize that your financial assets are threatened or stolen can make all the difference.

Couple reviewing their finances together

Taking the right actions immediately can minimize both the resulting damage and potential future losses from fraud. If you find that you’ve been defrauded, the first step is often contacting your bank or credit card company and notifying them of the unauthorized transactions. They can freeze your accounts, change passwords, issue new cards, and help you investigate and resolve fraudulent activities.

Depending on the severity of the scam, you may also want to freeze your credit record by contacting Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, you should also place an initial fraud alert on your credit report and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

If you suspect you are the victim of a financial crime, report the incident to your local law enforcement agency. The police report will be crucial for any future investigations, insurance claims, or legal proceedings. Finally, change all of your online passwords and rigorously monitor your online accounts for any further suspicious activity.

Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors With an Experienced Financial Partner

Knowing what signs to look for and how to respond should you become a victim may safeguard your finances from potential bad actors. However, in the digital age, some of these scams targeting seniors can be surprisingly sophisticated. So, as you begin to make some of the big financial decisions that this time in life can prompt, it’s best to work with a trusted wealth advisor you can rely on.

The experienced and trustworthy professionals at Bank of Blue Valley, a division of HTLF Bank can help you secure your financial future. By reaching out, you can establish an ongoing relationship with a professional who will help you mitigate fraud and protect your hard-earned wealth from scams.

Contact Bank of Blue Valley, a division of HTLF Bank to set up an appointment today.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for investment, legal or tax advice. Products offered through Wealth Advisory Services are not FDIC Insured, are not bank guaranteed and may lose value.