Your Social Security number (SSN) is a vital part of protecting your personal and financial information. It’s used for everything from filing taxes to opening a bank account. Unfortunately, scammers are using it for their own gain by preying on unsuspecting seniors.
How the Social Security Scam Letter Works
How does this scam work? According to an NBC affiliate station, you’ll receive a letter that claims to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA). It’ll claim that your SSN is being suspended because of suspected identity theft. The letter will go on to claim that your SSN is part of a $14 million dollar fraud investigation and will require you to call a phone number in order to reactivate it.
Of course, this is all lies.
The real Social Security Administration may contact you by letter, but they won’t ask for your personal information or threaten to suspend your SSN—and they’ll know your name. If you look closely at this Social Security scam letter, you’ll notice:
It doesn’t address you by name
The date isn’t in American format
And, of course, your Social Security number cannot be suspended—it’s yours for life.
The Seniors Center
If you receive one of these letters, DON’T call the number or provide any personal information. Keep your information safe by knowing the signs of a scam and never giving away your SSN. The Seniors Center Blog is here to help you stay informed and alert. Discover more tips and resources on our website, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information.
Billions of dollars have been lost to scams just over the past two years, and seniors are often a target for scam artists. One scam that is particularly common that you should be aware of is illegal call centers.
Illegal call centers are fraudulent telemarketing organizations that target seniors with promises of discounted products and services, such as medical alert systems or vacation packages.
Yahoo! reports that call centers and phishing groups in India often use illegal tactics to scam people out of their money, such as lying about the company’s location or name, guaranteeing products and services that don’t exist, and having representatives threaten or pressure callers into making purchases.
Seniors should be aware of warning signs that they may be dealing with an illegal call center. These signs include aggressive sales tactics, misrepresentation of products and services, and requests for payment over the phone or by a wire transfer.
Remember—if you ever feel uncomfortable or intimidated by a caller, it’s best to hang up.
It’s important to protect yourself and your family by staying informed about illegal call centers and common scams. If you or a loved one have been targeted by an illegal call center, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also research the company online and contact your state attorney general’s office for more information.
The holidays are a time for giving, but unfortunately that also means it’s prime time for fraudsters to target unsuspecting seniors. Social Security Matters recently posted an article on how to protect yourself from imposter fraud during the holidays. It’s important that seniors stay informed and vigilant to ensure their hard-earned savings don’t end up in the hands of a scammer.
How Scam Artists Can Pose as Government Officials
Social Securit Matters reports that some criminals may attempt to pose as government officials. They might call or email pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA), IRS, or other federal agency. These scammers will often try to convince seniors that they are entitled to a tax refund or other payment, but must first provide personal information in order to receive it.
What Seniors Can Do To Stay Safe
The best way for seniors to protect themselves from imposter fraud is to ignore suspicious emails and calls. The SSA, IRS, and other government agencies will never contact you to ask for personal information or for money to be sent in the form of gift cards. These government agencies will send a letter via the mail instead.
Older Americans are often the targets of fraud and abuse by family members, caregivers, strangers, and even business entities. In 2021 alone, the money lost to elder fraud reached $1.7 billion. Understanding the numbers behind the fraud can help seniors protect themselves and their assets.
Breaking Down Elder Fraud Statistics
According to The Motley Fool, losses have nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021. With 97,371 victims in 2021, this indicates that it is more important than ever for seniors to protect their finances.
The average amount lost by victims of senior scams in 2021 was $18,246, but many seniors lost more than $100,000. The most common type of scam that targeted seniors was confidence fraud, which involves tricking seniors into wiring money to a scammer who poses as someone they can trust. Other types of scams included prize offers, government imposter fraud, and investment fraud.
Financial abuse also poses a significant threat to seniors. Loved ones and caregivers may take advantage of seniors’ physical or emotional vulnerability to gain access to their accounts and assets. Financial abuse, while not subject to the same tracking that fraud and scams are, has likely been responsible for billions in losses.
Did you know that scams can spike during the holidays?
During the holiday season, when people are feeling generous and looking for ways to help others, scammers can take advantage of this kind of generosity. As many as three-quarters of Americans have been targeted by a scam that’s connected to the holidays at some point.
These scams can include online fraud, fake charities, and even identity theft. It’s important to stay vigilant and protect yourself from these kinds of predatory activities.
How to Spot Holiday Scams
Unknown numbers, gift cards that have been tampered with, and shady charities are some of the biggest red flags associated with holiday scams. However, knowing what to look out for can be difficult, especially with the prevalence of online scams.
AARP has put together a helpful online quiz that will test your knowledge of holiday scams. The quiz covers topics like phishing, check fraud, and other factors that can help you identify potential disasters before they have a chance to affect you.
For example, can you always trust ads for items you see on social media? Will retailers like Amazon ever ask for your login info over the phone? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you stay safe from scams during the holidays.
The Seniors Center Blog Can Help You Stay Safe for the Holidays
We hope you enjoy this holiday season—and stay vigilant against scams! At The Seniors Center, you’ll find helpful advice on how to stay safe. From avoiding impostor fraud to recognizing questionable charities, our blog has all the info you need to stay safe during the holidays.
For seniors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has been a lifeline. Many older Americans enjoy connecting with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. However, there can be hidden dangers lurking on social media. For some seniors, these dangers come in the form of vicious romance scams.
What Are Romance Scams?
Romance scams, also known as dating scams, totaled more than $300 million last year, according to USA Today. Much of these losses were for retirees who have been targeted on social media. The way these scams operate is that a scammer sends their target a friend request and attempts to strike up a friendship or romantic relationship. Then, they’ll move the conversation off of social media and begin texting or calling. Eventually, they will ask for money, possibly for an emergency. They’re likely to ask for a wire transfer or gift cards.
It can be difficult to sort out scammers from individuals who are truly looking for friendship. Senior citizens can stay safe by keeping conversations on social media and not giving out personal information. Research friend requests before accepting them by looking at their profiles. And if you feel suspicious, talk through your concerns with friends and family.
Donating to charity this holiday season? Make sure you do your research first to avoid charity scams.
Charity scams are unfortunately common, especially during the holidays when people are feeling more generous. Scammers take advantage of this by posing as legitimate charities and asking for donations. They may even set up fake websites or social media accounts that look real.
Research the charity before you donate. Make sure it’s a legitimate organization by checking out websites like the Better Business Bureau.
Ask about tax deductions. Legitimate charities will be able to provide information about tax deductions for your donation.
Hang up if you need to. If a caller is being pushy or aggressive, it’s a red flag. Just hang up and donate to a charity of your choice instead.
Watch for sneaky name changes. Some scammers will try to trick you by using a similar name to a legitimate charity. So be sure to double-check before you donate.
You can stay safe from charity scams this holiday season by doing your research and being aware of red flags. Don’t let scammers take advantage of your generosity—give to a charity of your choice instead. Follow The Seniors Center on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about common senior scams and how to avoid them.
Guardianships are often put in place to help support and protect seniors who have advanced memory issues or other concerns that make independence possible. While these can be helpful for those who have loved ones in charge of the guardianships, there is also a possibility for guardianship fraud and abuse.
A recent piece by U.S. Representative Charlie Crist of Florida details some of the forms this fraud can take and ways that seniors can stay protected.
Since guardianships control finances, living arrangements, and medical decisions, having the wrong hands in charge can be disastrous for seniors. Guardianship fraud and abuse can involve taking funds from seniors, including their Social Security benefits and retirement savings.
A few ways to protect yourself or a loved one include:
Create power of attorney documents – These will ensure that only someone you trust can make important decisions for you.
Talk with a lawyer – Have a lawyer look over any important documents, like a living will.
Call on Congress to pass legislation – Ask you representatives to pass legislation protecting seniors.
Taking these steps can help you stay protected against guardianship fraud and abuse.
When you reach out to a financial advisor, you expect to be taken care of. But one Nashville senior was scammed out of thousands by someone she thought she could trust.
How This Senior Scam Worked
This woman’s senior scam story begins with a man handing out AARP information. According to WKRN.com, this man told a Nashville woman, Paula Gilmore, that he could help her with her finances and manage her money.
She believed him—he seemed credible. However, over the next 10 years, she handed him close to $230,000. But instead of investing it, he was pocketing it for himself.
According to Gilmore’s daughter, the man would open up her mail and even write checks from her own account to pass off as dividends. In reality, he was just cashing them and taking the money for himself.
Eventually, the FBI caught up to the scam artist. However, the damage was done.
Staying Safe from Fraud and Scams
Consult others before making any decisions about your finances, especially if someone you don’t know approaches you.
The FBI has recently released statistics detailing the cyber crimes that have taken place so far in 2021. These crimes range from phishing scams to ransomware attacks, and they have affected individuals, businesses, and government entities alike. The good news is that there are steps that everyone can take to protect themselves from these types of attacks.
Here are some of the most common cyber crimes that have been reported so far this year:
Ransomware – This type of attack involves criminals using malicious software to lock up your computer files and demand a ransom in order to get them back. Ransomware attacks can be devastating for businesses, as they can result in the loss of important data and files.
Supply chain attacks – These attacks target the supply chains of businesses in order to gain access to their networks. Once inside, the attackers can then install ransomware or steal sensitive data.
Critical infrastructure attacks – These attacks target the systems that control our critical infrastructure, such as power grids and water treatment plants. These attacks can have a significant impact on public safety.
For individuals, the best defense against these types of attacks is to educate yourself about the risks and be aware of the signs of an attack. If you receive a suspicious email, don’t click on any links or attachments. Change passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. And, if you are a victim of an attack, don’t pay the ransom.