A Vulnerable Generation
Elderly loved ones are at high risk of being scammed for a variety of reasons, as aging brings about physical, mental, and emotional vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are preyed upon by those greedy enough to pry and manipulate. It’s important that people are made aware of the most common scams, what they look and sound like, and how to prevent oneself or a loved one from being hustled. Here are just a few.
Sweetheart Scam: Emotional Manipulation
The scam of the heart is one of the most commonly used methods of scamming. Everyone is susceptible, because everyone wants to be loved and receive attention. As older individuals enter the later years of their lives, they may suffer divorce, loss, or general loneliness, which may lead to an accepting, vulnerable, and trusting person (or prey).
The scheme can take place online or in-person and is conducted for financial gain. The scammer convinces their victim that they are in love, using the person’s emotions to manipulate them into giving them a great sum of money. Many have even lost their entire life savings. Men and women over the age of 60 are most at risk, but the scheme is not gender specific.
Many victims are found on social media or through online dating, where they enter online chats, exchange photos, and build a relationship over time. At some point, the scammer mentions having a “major problem” financially, and the victim steps up and tries to help, giving up the money willingly. Most of the time scammers are overseas, which makes it difficult to catch and or prosecute them. Average financial loss is between $15,000 to $20,000, which is double what it was a decade ago.
Anti-Aging Products: Seeking the Fountain of Youth
Even for younger generations physical beauty is an obsession, and many times elderly folks are targeted for scams appealing to physical maintenance and preservation. These scams come in the form of fraudulent, anti-aging products and/or treatment.
Many elderly Americans are on the hunt for treatments, medications and short cuts to make themselves look younger. Fake Botox is common, as well as fraudulent homeopathic remedies. The best way to avoid these scams is remembering, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Internet Fraud: Hiding Behind Technology
It’s common for elderly individuals to utilize recent developments in technology, such as social media, email, and smart devices. While it’s positive to adjust to technology, many people are still either reluctant or have not yet made the transition, making them more susceptible to scams. Not to mention, individuals with Alzheimer’s are especially vulnerable, as they can be coerced into making financially detrimental decisions.
Fake anti-virus or virus-scanning software often pops up in internet browsers, calling people to action. This can cause victims to download the program at a large cost or even an actual virus, allowing the scammers to obtain personal and confidential information.
For example, email/phishing scams are common methods in which scammers appear to be legitimate employees of real companies or institutions, then ask the elderly person to update or verify their personal information. These scammers are often disguised as the IRS, and are active around tax season.
Stay Away from Scammers
Scammers are sneaky, but knowing what to look for will help keep you and your loved ones out of trouble. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, don’t give out personal information, and when in doubt hang up or close out. Stay educated, do research, and be cautious.