Top 5 Internet and Phone Scams That Target Seniors

elders computer scamsSenior citizens are the demographic of choice for online scammers for a number of reasons. First of all, some seniors may be less tech-savvy than younger generations and therefore more inclined to click fraudulent links, respond to phishing attempts, or divulge personal information to unknown third parties. Second, criminals tend to view seniors as having more discretionary income on hand than younger individuals, making them a low-risk but potentially high-reward target.

As a result, seniors lose nearly $3 billion annually due to various scams, schemes, and fraudulent practices perpetrated online or via telephone. What’s more, since many of these financial crimes go unreported or are otherwise untraceable, most of the lost funds are never recovered. These facts should make Internet and phone scams a major concern for all seniors or their legal guardians.

If you are a senior or are concerned about protecting a parent or grandparent, then you should be particularly aware of these five Internet and phone scams:

  • Medical scams: From counterfeit prescription drugs to “miracle”cures, anti-aging products, and fake health insurance policies, today’s con artists are relentless in trying to peddle medical-related goods and services to unsuspecting victims.
  • Financial scams: There are far too many financial scams to enumerate here, but some common ones include the promise of very high returns on investments, refinance assistance on mortgages, and bogus sweepstakes or lottery winner notifications that require advanced fees to claim the prize.
  • Grandparent/Its me” scams: In this well-publicized scam, a caller poses as the target’s grandchild or relative and asks for an immediate bank or wire transfer to get out of an emergency situation. Often, the caller doesn’t even use a name, instead saying something along the lines of “Hi Grandma, it’s me” before rushing into a well-rehearsed sob story.
  • Funeral/Cemetery/Debt scams: Criminals prey on grieving family members by claiming that a recently deceased person, whose details were gleaned from the obituary page, owes an outstanding debt or has purchased (but not yet paid for) funeral services or a cemetery plot from a particular company.
  • Computer virus scam: Would-be identity thieves pose as IT specialists and tell targets that their computer has been infected with a virus. The thieves then instruct the target to log onto a website that will supposedly fix the problem, but actually allows the target’s computer to be controlled and scanned for personal information.

The best way to protect your assets against scams and cons like the ones listed here is never to reveal sensitive data, such as your social security number, credit card number, or bank account information, to people or companies you’ve never heard of and to be wary of any deals that sounds too good to be true. Legitimate offers can be researched, vetted, and verified, so take your time before making any decisions that have the potential to impact your financial stability.