World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Identify and Avoid Scams This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June, 2024 – by Jake Holmes, Maine Credit Union League

Blog provided by the Maine Credit Union League

Fraudsters and scammers are ever-evolving, deceptively clever, and relentless in their attempts to obtain peoples’ money and personal information––making it essential to stay educated and up-to-date on the latest scam trends. Sadly, a growing trend of those committing nefarious financial schemes is praying on the vulnerabilities of older Mainers. 

With the prevalence of scams targeting seniors continuing to rise, it’s important for everyone to take proactive steps in protecting their older friends, family, and neighbors from falling victim. Here are the top scams targeting seniors, as well as ways you can help safeguard the older Mainers in your life against them:

Grandparent Scams 

This is one of the most heartless scams, with criminals taking advantage of an older person’s love and instinct to protect their grandchildren. Scammers will impersonate a grandchild in distress––often through a phone call––claiming they’re in trouble and need money urgently. With increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence resources at peoples’ disposal, scammers can easily replicate the voice of one’s grandchild. The imposter may claim they’ve been in a car accident, arrested, or are facing some other emergency situation.They then ask the grandparent to send money immediately using a wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or other unusual payment method. 

Prevention Tips 

  • Encourage the older Mainers in your life to set up code words with their friends and family as a way to verify identity. 
  • Talk to them about hanging up and calling their family back right away if they’re asking for money.However, it’s important to note they should call back a trusted contact number and not simply redial the number. 

Tech Support Scams 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day logo

With more reliance on technology for day-to-day tasks than ever before, seniors are finding themselves using digital devices and navigating the internet. Scammers pray on the fact that many seniors aren’t as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts. By utilizing online popups, advertisements, emails, or even phone calls, scammers are tricking older people into believing they are tech support representatives from trusted companies, such as Microsoft or Apple. They may claim their computer has a virus or that they need to resolve a technical issue. From there, they instruct the senior to download malicious software, which can steal their personal and financial data, or grant them remote access. 

Prevention Tips 

  • Install antivirus software on the devices of your older friends and family members devices. 
  • Register their numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call” list, as well as installing a spam call blocker app on their phones. 
  • Educate them on safe internet and device usage, and about keeping their personal and financial information safe. 

Government Impersonation Scams 

Elder Abuse Awareness Graphic

Scammers will often impersonate government employees, such as law enforcement, Internal Revenue Service agents, Medicare representatives, or the Social Security Administration. They may call and threaten unsuspecting seniors with arrest, fines, or legal action if they don’t pay back taxes, fines, or fees stemming from a mistake made by the senior. They may also simply ask the senior for some personal information to confirm their identity––that way the senior continues to receive benefits. 

Prevention Tips 

  • Tell the older Mainers in your life that urgency and fear tactics are warning signs of a scam. Scammers know that fear can lead to poor judgement and if people think they need to act quickly, they won’t take the time to think the situation through. 
  • If they receive a call, encourage them to call back using the government agency’s official number. 
  • Inform them that these agencies will very rarely call them. If they do, they won’t solicit personal or financial information. 

Online Romance Scams 

While older widows and divorcees are particularly susceptible to online romance scams, fraudsters will happily target any senior seeking connection. After creating fake online dating personas and social media accounts, the scammer will engage in conversations with the senior. Once trust––maybe even “love”––is gained, the scammer may ask for money. They could claim they’re having a medical emergency or want money to travel and meet the senior in person. 

  • Alert the seniors in your life to the threats of online dating. 
  • Go over the red flags of romance scams, such as the other person not being able to meet or wanting money. 
  • Check in on them regularly. Visit with them and invite them to events to keep them from becoming lonely and dependent on internet relationships. 

Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams 

In this scam, an older person received an email, text, call, or letter from a scammer claiming they’ve won a large prize. However, to claim the prize, they must first pay taxes or administration fees. Unfortunately, the prize never materializes, and the senior loses out on their money. 

Prevention Tips 

  • Tell your older friends and family to be cautious if contacted about winning a prize––especially if they didn’t enter for one. 
  • Educate them about the “dos and don’ts” of the lottery and sweepstakes by reviewing AARP’s recommendations

The Bottom Line 

In closing, protecting older adults from scams requires routine awareness, education, and proactive measures. By staying informed on the latest scams, establishing trusted contacts, implementing device screening and blocking solutions, and encouraging caution, we can safeguard the older Mainers in our lives from falling victim to malicious, deceiving scams. 

For more on thwarting scams, visit the Maine Credit Union League’s Fraud Prevention Hub!

Also, visit UCU’s Online Security Center for more fraud trends and tips.

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