Social media has greatly impacted the way we communicate, connect, and share information with one another. It has also revolutionized the way businesses market their products and services. However, along with its many benefits, social media has also brought about an increase in scams targeting vulnerable individuals, particularly seniors.
According to a report from CBS News, since 2021, Americans have lost $2.7 billion in scams that originated on social media. But what makes these scams so effective, and why are seniors more susceptible to them?
Scams and Social Media
One of the main reasons for the success of social media scams is their ability to reach a large audience quickly. With millions of users on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, scammers can easily target multiple individuals at once with just one post or message. Additionally, the anonymity provided by these platforms makes it easier for scammers to avoid detection and continue their fraudulent activities without facing consequences.
The types of scams targeting seniors on social media vary, but some of the most common ones include:
Fake romantic relationships where scammers target lonely individuals
Financial scams promising quick returns or financial assistance
Tech support scams offering fake technical support services
Whether it’s a fake love interest or a fraudulent service, these scams often aim to get individuals to share their personal information or send money.
Staying Safe from Social Media Scams
So, how can seniors protect themselves from falling victim to social media scams? Here are a few simple tips that everyone should keep in mind:
Be wary of suspicious messages or posts: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t click on any links or respond to messages from strangers claiming to have an amazing offer for you.
Verify the source: Before engaging with any offers or messages, make sure to verify the source. If it’s a business, check their official website or social media page. If it’s an individual claiming to be someone you know, reach out to that person through a different platform to confirm.
Keep personal information private: Do not share your personal information such as passwords, bank account details, or social security number on social media platforms. Scammers can use this information to steal your identity and commit fraud.
Report suspicious accounts: If you come across a suspicious account or encounter a scam, make sure to report it to the respective platform authorities immediately.
Robocalls are becoming an increasingly common issue, especially in relation to Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that over half of all robocalls are related to scams. With the rise of this fraudulent activity, it’s essential for those enrolled in these programs to be aware of potential risks associated with robocallers.
Protecting Yourself from Robocallers
Business Insider details some key steps to take in order to protect yourself from these potentially shady callers. Firstly, if you receive an unexpected robocall regarding your Medicare or Medicaid information, it’s important not to provide any personal details and hang up immediately.
It’s also important to be aware of the number that is calling you, as scammers have been known to spoof legitimate numbers. If you receive a call and are unsure if it’s associated with Medicare or Medicaid, you can always contact the official agency directly with any inquiries.
There are even ways to limit or stop robocalls completely, such as using caller ID services or signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry. By making sure that your number is blocked from potential scams, you can not only protect yourself from fraud but also reduce the amount of unwanted calls that you receive on a daily basis.
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:
Many seniors are aware of the most common forms of fraud targeting older adults, like romance scams and grandparent scams. However, scam artists are always coming up with new ways to attempt to steal money from hardworking Americans. Gift card scams, in which scam artists use tech support to weasel their way into seniors’ lives, have conned some individuals out of all they have.
One Woman’s Gift Card Scams Story
AARP has reported extensively on different forms of fraud targeting seniors, including gift card scams. One woman interviewed, a former teacher, spent $45,000 on gift cards over the course of three days. She was targeted by two individuals: one posing as an American Express employee, the other pretending to be a Microsoft tech support agent.
These individuals claimed that they could see illicit purchases made by the woman online and that there was a warrant out for her arrest. For them to help her, she would need to purchase them gift cards to the tune of five figures.
It was only once the ordeal was over that the former teacher realized she had been the victim of a scam. Now, working with the police, the FBI, and her credit card company, she’s making an effort to get back what she’s lost.
How can you avoid falling victim to this scam? First, know that no legitimate company or government agency will ask you to pay them in gift cards.
Additionally, pop-ups on your computer purporting to be from Microsoft can be a form of fraud. When in doubt, reach out to your credit card company or tech support agency directly rather than calling the number the pop-up provides.
Your driver’s license can feel like a passport to everyday life. You probably make sure you never leave the house without it, and losing your ID can be a headache. But did you know that criminals could use your driver’s license for a multitude of scams?
The Most Common Driver’s License Scams
Losing your ID is just one way that scam artists can use your driver’s license. They can also use a photo or scan of your license to use your information. According to AARP, a few of the ways that fraudsters could use your ID include:
Giving it to police in the event that they’re arrested
Applying for credit cards or loans in your name
Creating fake IDs with your information that will scan just like the real thing
Renting apartments and signing up for utilities under your name without paying
Buying a car in your name
If you lose your ID, the best thing to do is to immediately report it. Contact your state’s motor vehicle agency to report a stolen ID, and contact the FTC if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft. The sooner you act, the less time scam artists have to use your information.
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.
It happens all too often—an unknown number pops up in your text messages, asking for personal information or offering a free gift that is too good to be true. The sender might even seem like an innocuous wrong number asking about the weather. Unfortunately, these are signs of a scam.
How Scam Texts Work
According to CBS News, one of the most insidious ways that scammers use text messages is through copycat bank fraud. Typically, this will start with a seemingly innocent text asking about a potentially fraudulent charge. The text will ask the recipient to answer “yes” or “no” to confirm or deny the charge. By responding, the recipient has unknowingly confirmed that their number is activated and that they are a real person—the perfect target for the scammer.
Other forms of scam texts include phony delivery scams, bogus gift scams, and fake offers for free or discounted services. In each case, an unsuspecting victim can easily end up giving away personal information, such as passwords, bank account numbers, or Social Security numbers.
Stay Safe with These Tips
Our top three tips for staying safe from scam texts include:
Never answer a text from an unknown number — If you don’t recognize the sender or aren’t expecting a text from someone whose number you don’t have saved, do not respond to the message in any way. Just delete the text and go about your day.
Verify all bank charges before responding — If you receive a text asking about a bank charge, do not respond with yes or no. Instead, contact your bank directly to confirm if the charge is legitimate.
Never give out personal information over text — When scammers ask for any kind of financial or personal information, such as passwords or Social Security numbers, do not provide it. Legitimate businesses and institutions will never ask for this kind of information over text message.
AI is becoming increasingly accessible and sophisticated, giving scam artists opportunities to target seniors in new ways. AI algorithms can be used to generate realistic-looking calls, emails, and texts that can fool even the most tech-savvy seniors.
AI and Scams
A recent 60 Minutes segment detailed just how online scams might use AI to target seniors. In the piece, they detailed how scam artists could use AI-generated voices to call seniors and sound like a real person. The scammer would use this technology to build rapport with the person they are calling and make them more likely to fall prey to their demands.
Of course, AI is just a tool, and it can also be used to help prevent scams—for example, it could be used to monitor spending so that loved ones can see if their parents or grandparents have sent money to scammers. AI can also be used to detect suspicious emails or phone numbers that could indicate a scam is underway.
Becoming more familiar with what AI can do and how it can be used for scammers is an important step in helping protect seniors from scams. If you know what to look out for, you can stay safe.
The Seniors Center
The Seniors Center is here to help retirees learn about the latest ways that scam artists are targeting seniors, from AI-generated calls to phishing emails. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated, aware, and ready to protect yourself from scams.
There are nearly endless scams targeting older adults. From theft to identity fraud, seniors need to stay vigilant and be aware of the latest schemes. Georgia’s Consumer Protection Division has put together a helpful resource for seniors who want to stay informed.
Top 10 Scams
Here are the top 10 scams to watch out for:
Medicare or health insurance fraud – Scam artists might pose as Medicare representatives
Counterfeit prescription drugs – Be wary of suspicious offers for medications, especially if they come with a free “gift”
Funeral and cemetery scams – These scams usually involve pre-purchased funeral and cemetery services that are not delivered
Fraudulent anti-aging products – Don’t fall for false advertising that promises to take years off your appearance
Telemarketing fraud – Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls; never give out your credit card or bank account information
Internet fraud – Be careful when clicking on unfamiliar links, and never provide your personal information to an unverified source
Investment fraud – Research any investment offers carefully to avoid being scammed
Reverse mortgages – Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of a reverse mortgage before signing
Sweepstakes and lottery scams – Never pay to collect a prize or money
Grandparent scams – Be wary of requests for money from anyone claiming to be a family member in an emergency situation
If you’ve been a victim of a scam, don’t be embarrassed—it’s important to report the incident and seek help. Scam artists can be sophisticated and deceptive, so it can be difficult to stay ahead of them.
The Seniors Center Blog
The Seniors Center is here to help. We provide resources and information to help seniors identify and avoid scams, as well as advice on ways to protect themselves. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you never miss an update!
Phishing scams are becoming more and more sophisticated—so much so that even a savvy guy like Keith Hernandez almost fell for one.
What Are Phishing Scams?
Phishing scams are a type of fraud where scammers send emails or texts that look like they’re from a legitimate company in an attempt to get you to share personal information like your Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account login information.
They might also try to get you to download software that will give them access to your computer or device.
Once they have this information, they can use it to commit identity theft or financial fraud.
Hernandez, a former MLB player and current broadcaster for the New York Mets, recently shared his story of how he almost fell victim to a phishing scam. He received an email that looked very official, purporting to be from Florida Power & Light, saying he needed to pay them a deposit or his power would be shut off.
The email looked legitimate at first glance, and he even called the number they gave him. But luckily, he called his bank before he gave them any of his personal information.
This incident is a reminder that we all need to be careful about the emails we open and click on. If you’re ever unsure about the legitimacy of an email, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not click on any links or attachments.
Stay Safe from Scams
If you think you may have been the victim of a phishing scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. You can also learn more about how to protect yourself from these types of scams by keeping up with The Seniors Center‘s latest posts.