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Take Precaution Against COVID-19 Scams Targeted at the Elderly

July 8, 2020

Scams are running rampant as COVID-19 continues to impact people around the United States. It’s necessary to be aware of the multiple types of fraud and scams that are targeting seniors in particular. Seniors are the most targeted group scams. That’s why it is important to be hyper vigilant as an elderly individual or family member.

Recognizing Scams

Many scams are related to lottery, sweepstakes, inheritance, medical, romance, or e-mail and phone. Others have taken advantage of the current situation and created coronavirus related scams. There are dozens of other types of scams. But, being aware of the scenarios and information that one should not be giving out is important in protecting yourself or loved one from becoming a victim.

E-mail and Phone Scams

In these scenarios, individuals can pretend to be a relative, often a grandchild, in need of money. For example, they could indicate that they received a ticket in another state or country and need money to get themselves out of jail. They will ask for the money to be sent to another party. You will often see in these cases an e-mail or phone call where someone will impersonate police to reinforce that what the caller said is true.

Note: In this case, as well as many others, fraudsters may ask that you pay by getting gift cards and then giving them the numbers on the gift card. Remember that no federal or state agency will ever ask for you to pay for anything by first obtaining gift cards. In regard to e-mail it is very easy for someone to impersonate or make it seem that they are from an agency that they are not. Just because had indicated they are from a certain agency or any e-mail looks realistic doesn’t mean that it is.

Romance Scams

There are fraudsters preying on elderly individuals who may be lonely as a result of COVID-19 confinement or who may have recently lost a spouse. These fraudsters can start out professing their devotion to the person they have targeted through dating apps or websites. They use fake and stolen photos and may begin to ask for small amounts of money due to an illness. They will often indicate not to talk to other relatives about their involvement. You should be very weary of anyone asking you not to talk to your family due to any of their requests.

Lottery, Sweepstakes, or Inheritance Scams

As a more common type of fraud, these individuals may contact victims and indicate that they won a prize or inherited money. They will then indicate that to collect the money the victim will need to pay taxes or a fee by using a debit card or a wire transfer. Note: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If anyone asks for your personal information over the phone, text message, or e-mail to receive your “prize” or inheritance they are most likely attempting fraud.

Medical and COVID-19 Related Fraud

Unfortunately, individuals are taking advantage of the current pandemic. They do so by indicating to people that they need to register for their stimulus money. They then request personal information that will reveal your social security or bank information.

NOTE: According to the Federal Trade Commission you should only use irs.gov/coronavirus to check on your stimulus payment. The IRS will NOT call, e-mail, text or contact you through social media about your stimulus check. Therefore, you should not be giving out any personal information through those means.

Others are pretending to be from the IRS or Social Security asking for information and or payment due to errors in payments or taxes owed. They want immediate payment by debit card and indicate you will be arrested if you don’t comply. Again, the IRS will not call over the phone and ask for any payment.

If You Think You Have Fallen Victim to Financial Abuse

Remember that there are people that can help. It’s not your fault that people prey on individuals. Know that you can make yourself more aware about how best to avoid any scams. Also know that many people go through this. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Consult with family and report it if you think you have been a victim of a scam.

Some resources to report any financial abuse or suspected scams:

https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds

Conclusion

Keeping information like your bank account and social security number private is very important. DO NOT give your personal information out. This includes bank account information or your social security number over the phone, e-mail, text message, or through social media.

The types of scams and fraud listed above are not the only scenarios you may encounter. In-person scams are also common (for utilities, fake businesses, etc.). Hence, being aware of subtle signs like needing money immediately, not handing over phone number, location, or the name of business, or winning something where you need to pay any sort of fee (including shipping) are all signs of fraud potentially taking place.

If there is a reason you will need to give out personal information over the phone, make sure you have verified the requesting party.

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