If you’ve ever been the victim of a scam, you know how upsetting it can be. You may feel embarrassed, confused, and even scared. What you may not realize is that being scammed can also take a toll on your mental health.
A recent Washington Post article explored how scams can impact mental health. With seniors being targeted more and more by scammers, it’s important to be aware of the potential impacts.
Mental Health and Scams
The emotional toll of being scammed can be significant. Many victims report feeling angry, anxious, and depressed. In some cases, the experience can trigger PTSD-like symptoms. The psychological effects of being scammed can also last long after the event itself. Victims may struggle with trust issues and become more isolated.
Scam artists often use intimidation or manipulation to take advantage of their victims. They might claim to be from a government agency or say that a loved one is in danger. This can leave victims feeling scared and helpless.
It’s important to remember that you are not to blame if you’ve been scammed. No one deserves to be exploited in this way. While scam artists will continue to find new ways to target their victims, there are several basic steps you can take to protect yourself:
Phone calls, emails, and even in-person visits used to be the only way scammers could try to trick people out of their money. But with the rise of social media, scammers now have a whole new way to target their victims.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide scammers with a gold mine of information about potential targets. They can learn your interests, your family and friends, and even your daily routines. This information can be used to create believable scams that are much harder to spot than the more traditional methods.
The Most Common Social Media Scams
The FTC reports that in 2021, more than one in four of those who reported a scam said they were contacted through social media. And the scams are only getting more sophisticated.
A few of the most common types of social media scams include:
Crypto scams — Have you heard the buzz around investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? Scammers are using social media to promote fake investments, often promising high returns with little or no risk. Just remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Romance scams — This is one of the most common types of social media scams, and it can be devastating. Using a fake profile, scammers will start a relationship and then ask for money, often for a bogus emergency.
Online shopping fraud — Ever ordered something online and it never arrived? Scammers are using social media to promote fake online stores and websites. You might purchase an item, but you’ll never receive it.
The best way to protect yourself from social media scams is to be aware of them. The Seniors Center Blog can help you stay up-to-date on the latest scams. If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know, be cautious about giving out any personal information. Always get a second opinion before making any financial decisions, and consider talking to a trusted friend or family member before taking any action.
We’ve all gotten calls from strangers claiming to be from the IRS or a “free” vacation. But how can you tell if a call is really a scam?
Sample Scam Calls
AARP has recently released a report detailing seven calls that they logged on their Fraud Watch Network Helpline. Reading through these examples can help you learn more about the ways that scammers try to trick people.
Here’s a few of their examples:
Medicare number requests: Be very careful about giving away your Medicare number. Scammers will often call pretending to be from Medicare and say that you need to verify your number for tests or benefits.
IRS imposters: These scammers will call and say that you owe money to the IRS and need to pay immediately or face consequences. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.
Energy companies: Scammers will sometimes call pretending to be from an energy company like Con Edison or PSE&G. They’ll say that you need to pay your bill immediately or your service will be shut off.
As you read through these examples, see if you can spot the red flags. Was the caller asking for personal information? Were they threatening you with arrest or disconnection?
If you get a call like this, don’t panic. Hang up right away and report it to the FTC or your local police department. And remember, you can always say no to unsolicited calls.
The tactics used to scam seniors are becoming more and more creative. But, luckily, law enforcement is catching up to these criminals. Recently, three scam artists who posed as family members in need of money were caught and will be sentenced in October. These scammers made phone calls to their victims, preying on their fears by saying they were in danger or in jail. Then, they would ask the seniors to gather cash before sending a courier to collect it.
According to the Department of Justice, these scam artists were able to steal more than $350,000 from fourteen Rhode Island seniors. But now that they’ve been caught, these seniors can sleep a little easier knowing that these criminals are behind bars.
If you’re ever in doubt about a phone call from a family member, hang up and call them back at a number you know to be safe. You can also ask a friend or neighbor to come over so you’re not alone while you verify the story. And, of course, never give out personal information or money to someone you don’t know.
Scam calls come in many forms. Scammers might pretend to be a loved one or acquaintance, might use the ruse of an emergency, or might act as a government employee to gain the trust of their marks. One scam that is on the rise in recent months is actually a spin on an older con: acting as a Social Security employee.
How to Spot This Social Security Scam
How does this scam work? The con artists tell their potential victims that someone is trying to open bank accounts in their name. In order to stop this from happening, they’ll say, the victim needs to download an app on their phones. This app will allow the supposed Social Security or IRS employee to remotely access their phone.
By remotely accessing the phone, the scammer can access passwords and accounts. They might ask their victim to transfer money into a different account. According to NBC 2 News, one Florida woman had the scammer ask her to transfer money into Bitcoin—luckily, a fraud alert came up before she was able to complete the transaction.
It’s important for seniors to be aware of the many scams that exist. Unfortunately, scammers often target seniors because they may be seen as more vulnerable. These scams against seniors can take many forms, from email and phone scams to identity theft.
Family Imposter scams: In this type of scam, a con artist pretends to be a family member or friend in need of money. They may even go so far as to create a fake email account or social media profile in the name of the person they’re pretending to be.
Romance scams: With this scam, the con artist creates a fake online dating profile and gains the trust of their victim. They may even send flowers or other gifts. Once they have gained the victim’s trust, they will ask for money.
Tech Support scams: In this scam, the scammer will call or email their victim pretending to be from a tech company like Microsoft. They will then claim that the victim’s computer has a virus and offer to fix it for a fee.
Knowing how to spot these scams is the first step in protecting yourself. If you are contacted by someone who you think may be a scammer, do not give them any personal information. Hang up the phone or delete the email. You can also contact your local law enforcement to report the scam.
Seniors are frequently targets of scammers who attempt to exploit their vulnerabilities. One popular scam that has been making the rounds lately is an impersonation scam involving doctored credentials.
How Does the Impersonation Scam Work?
The Social Security Matters Blog warns of the rise of this scam. How does it work? The scammer will contact the senior by phone, email, or even in person. They will then claim to be from a government agency or another credible source. The scammer may say that they need to verify the senior’s Social Security number or other personal information, or that they need to pay money to resolve an issue or receive a monetary reward of some kind.
It’s important to know that no government agency or credible source will ever contact a citizen and ask for personal information over the phone or via email.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from a government agency, do not give them any information. Instead, hang up the phone or delete the email. If you are contacted in person, ask to see their credentials. If they do not have any credentials, or if their credentials look fake or doctored in any way, do not give them any information.
Even our nation’s top law enforcement officials can be the targets of elder fraud.
In 2021 alone, more than 92,000 seniors were victims of elder fraud. And one scammer picked an unfortunate target: the former director of the FBI and his wife. Watch below to see how former FBI Director William Webster and his wife Lynda handled a scammer who took it a step further by threatening violence.
While not every senior has the same connections as former members of the FBI, everyone can learn from how he and his wife handled this situation. They shut down the scammer and reached out for help right away.
Lynda advocates for a community approach to end elder fraud. “The younger people have to keep an eye on mom or dad or an elderly neighbor,” CBS News quotes her as saying. Checking in on elderly friends or neighbors can help protect them from scams.
Never give out personal information, no matter how benign it may seem. Even something as seemingly innocuous as your birthday can be used to scam you. Be especially wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue, whether it’s by phone, text, email, or in person.
Scams targeting seniors are always heartless. But one of the worst ways that criminals attempt to steal from seniors is by first posing as a trusted helper.
That’s exactly what happened recently at a senior living facility in Massachusetts, where a woman posing as a nurse’s aid was caught stealing precious valuables and money from residents.
According to AP News, the woman had personal checks, valuables, and ID cards from a number of senior living communities. By targeting individuals in senior living with dementia, she was able to steal without anyone noticing.
Seniors can stay safe by being wary of anyone asking for sensitive information. While scammers will continue to pose as helpful professionals, being alert and aware of your surroundings is important.
The Seniors Center is working to educate and inform seniors to help them stay safe. From senior scams to Social Security, we have the latest information on what seniors need to know. Visit our website for more information.
To find out more about what you can do to protect yourself or your loved ones, visit our website—or follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you never miss an update.
When looking at the different ways that scam artists target seniors, it’s easy to focus on the ones that lure victims in with emotional appeals. Grandparent and sweetheart scams are both examples of this. But there’s another type of scam that’s just as dangerous, if not more so — the fraudulent check scheme.
How One Las Vegas Man Swindled Seniors Out of Millions
One recent example of an especially insidious fraudulent check scheme took place in Las Vegas. A 76-year-old resident of the city, Michael Zeto, was discovered to be stealing money from other seniors’ bank accounts by depositing fraudulent checks.
He first purchased the names and bank account information of senior citizens from foreign telemarketers. He created checks in their names and deposited them into his own business accounts. Zeto has since been caught, however, and faces many years in prison for this form of fraud.
Stay Safe from Fraudulent Check Schemes
Fraudulent check schemes are just one of the many ways that scam artists target seniors. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
The most important thing is to be aware of the signs of fraud. If someone you don’t know asks you to deposit a check for them, be very suspicious. Never give out your bank account information to someone you don’t know.
You should also keep a close eye on your bank account. Check your statements regularly and report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately. If you do become the victim of fraud, be sure to contact the police so they can catch the person responsible.
By following these simple steps, you can help keep yourself safe from fraudulent check schemes and other types of scams. At The Seniors Center, we’re helping seniors stay safe — and providing helpful information about Social Security and other issues impacting older Americans. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more!