Each year, hundreds of thousands of seniors in the U.S. fall victim to fraud. Since they’re more likely to have savings and their oft more trusting and polite natures, they make attractive targets to scammers.
The statistics speak for themselves. In the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, those aged 60+ in the state of Florida reported losses of $84 million in fraud related issues. In the US as a whole, there were 105,301 victims aged over 60, with total reported losses of $966 million. That’s an almost billion dollar a year industry built on defrauding seniors alone.
Knowing how to spot fraud starts with being able to identify some of the more common scams. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so be sure to do extra research!
In this scam, the scammer will contact you over the phone and say they’re a member of a government agency, like the IRS or law enforcement, calling about a situation. For instance, they might say a car registered to you has been found at a crime scene and you may be arrested if you don’t do as they say, or they could say you owe money on taxes and threaten to issue a warrant for your arrest if you do not comply with their orders. There are hundreds of variations of this scam, but the common thread is someone is a supposed position of authority telling you you’ve done something wrong and must make amends or face the consequences.
Not even matters of the heart are sacred for scammers, as they’ll try to take advantage of people looking for love using online dating websites or social media! This kind of scam can take longer than the previous examples, as it involves gaining the victim’s trust over a period of time. Once that trust is built, the victim is more agreeable to help the scammer when they present the victim with an issue in their life. This could be anything from needing money to fix a car or to make ends meet for the month. The victim may be so infatuated with the false persona the scammer has built that they also send extravagant gifts and money.
In an attempt to tug on their heartstrings, scammers may call victims over the phone pretending to be a family member, like a grandchild, or a law enforcement officer claiming a grandchild is in trouble. In the first situation, the scammer will try to convince the victim that they’re in trouble and need money wired as soon as possible. For the latter, the scammer will pose as a law enforcement officer alleging a family member is in trouble and in need of money for things like lawyers and bail.
Refer to the video just below for some information on how to avoid fraud:
How to Spot Fraud
If you’re worried you or someone you care about is a target of fraud, we’ve outlined some steps to help. Go over the following tips and make sure you keep up to date with the latest scam tactics. You can find common scams listed on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Take a Deep Breath
As you may have noticed, scammers will try to inflict emotional distress by creating a sense of urgency. This tactic works as the pressure of the situation, especially if there’s a time limit placed upon you, overrides rational thought very quickly. If you’re able to notice small things about the call that are off, you’re more likely to realize you’re being scammed and can save yourself from fraud.
Hang Up If Something Feels Off
If you’re speaking with someone on the phone and you start to get an odd feeling, know that you can hang up the phone at any time. If the person you’re speaking to is legitimate, they’ll be more than okay with you feeling suspicious about fraud. A good tactic to try is to say you have to hang up and ask if you can call them back in a few minutes. Their reaction might be telling, as scammers’ main goal is to keep you on the phone.
Know When You’d Be Called
The reality is law enforcement and other government agencies like the IRS would never call and threaten you. If you receive a call like this, know that it’s more than likely a scam. This can often be the first sign that a call is not legitimate. Also, be aware of robotic calls that ask you to call a number back. You should always check to ensure the number is legitimate, or try to contact the source directly at an official number and ask about the validity of the call or voicemail.
When to Answer the Phone
If you get a call from a number with a strange area code, there’s a good chance you won’t answer it. This is why scammers have started trying to trick victims by using numbers similar to those you might know or with a matching area code to yours. The use of this tactic, known as “neighbor spoofing,” makes it so we have to be careful even when answering numbers that look like they’re from our local area.
It’s Not Always Authority
Some scammers will take try to create an empathetic relationship with their victim and then weaponize that empathy. If you’ve got five minutes, we’d recommend you check out this video from 6:53 to 12:00 where you can see footage and hear audio of an actual scam taking place. It’s not an always an authoritative tone!
Steps to Take If You Think You’ve Been Scammed
Mistakes happen. If you believe that you’ve been a victim of fraud, you should contact your financial institution immediately. Taking steps to report fraud early, freezing your cards and contacting the authorities is imperative in minimizing the damage fraudsters can wreak. Florida Credit Union members can contact us at 1-800-284-1144 if they suspect fraudulent activity on any of their account.
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Florida Credit Union is a full-service financial institution. Founded in 1954 as the Alachua County Teachers’ Credit Union, FCU now services over 120,000 members in 48 counties throughout North and Central Florida. For more information on the services we provide, visit FLCU.org or call us at 1-800-284-1144.