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Swindling Seniors

Posted by Haley Kotwicki on January 25, 2016 at 10:08 AM

The Nigerian prince hoax is one of the most well-known scams in the U.S. The con runs like this: A royal family member in a faraway country asks the victim, through a letter or email, to transfer millions of dollars out of his or her country by depositing it for safekeeping in the victim’s bank account. The royal may even ask for money to pay a fee or taxes for the transfer. Either way the victim has money stolen from them.

This hoax may seem pretty obvious or you may think highly of others – people are intelligent enough to see through the deceit. However, scammers are still raking in the dough. According to the Financial Fraud Research Center, about $40-$50 billion are lost to scams each year. Con artists’ incomes depend on tricking everyone, even you, so they learned to be cleverer than the worn out prince scheme.


Who Gets Scammed?

Anyone can be scammed, but the most common group of victims is adults aged 65 and older. The FBI says seniors are more likely to have a large sum of savings or high credit score, which attracts thieves. The FBI adds that baby boomers and those of the silent generation were raised to be “polite and trusting,” which scammers use to their advantage.

What Types of Scams Are There?

iStock_000075296271_Small.jpgThere are countless types of scams including the Nigerian prince emails. The following types of deceptions, from the National Council of Aging, are directed only at older adults:

  • The Placebo Effect: Seniors purchase a discounted medication through the Internet and discover the medication is not what they ordered, or it is a harmful drug.
  • The Faux Grandchild: Seniors receive a frantic phone call from a “grandchild”, who is needs money for bail, car repairs, overdue rent, etc. Seniors wire money to them via Western Union or MoneyGram and promise not to tell the “grandchild’s parents.” Usually the scammer asks, “Hi Grandma/Grandpa, do you know who this is?” When the victim replies with a name of a grandchild, the caller assumes that identity.
  • The No Money Lottery/Sweepstakes: Seniors receive a letter or phone call that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they must mail in a check to “unlock” their prize. The fake lottery/sweepstakes may send a check to be deposited. While seniors see the money is in their account then scammers ask for payment for “fees” or “taxes” on the prize money. While the con artists collect the money, the check bounces.
  • The Bad Samaritan Charity: Frauds posing as volunteers call seniors and ask for money donations or ask them to buy an item, while the cost goes directly to a “charity” but more likely the thieves’ pockets.

Recently, there has been an uptick in IRS scams. The scam consists of a caller contacting the senior citizen and pretending to be an IRS agent. The caller then demands money for unpaid taxes. If you feel you or your loved one has a received a call like this, please call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.

There are many more types of scams, and you can find more information here. If any of these sound familiar to you or your loved one, please seek help. Call your bank if money was taken from your account, notify the local police and contact the National Consumers League’s fraud program at or 1-800-876-7060.

Older adults can be vulnerable to scams and scoundrels. ComForCare/At Your Side Home Care offers in-home care with caregivers you can trust. We provide senior care so elderly adults can live with dignity and independence. Count on us for help when you need it.

Topics: Safety

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