ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Even before the onset of COVID-19, scams and fraud ran rampant in many parts of society. More often than not, many of these cases involve older adults. In fact, older adults lose billions of dollars each year because of scams or fraud.
“Given their age-associated vulnerabilities, older adults are prime targets for many scams,” said Dorothy Brandon, an Alabama Extension consumer sciences and personal financial management specialist.
While some cases are committed by professionals or strangers, an overwhelming number of them dealing with older adults are committed by someone familiar to the person, including family.
While there are several types, imposter scams are one of the most common. In these instances, scammers pretend to be someone else, either a person or an organization, to obtain personal or financial information. These types of scams normally use traditional mailing or digital methods.
“Some of the usual imposter scams involve a person pretending to be from a bank, the IRS or a hospital or doctor’s office in order to get information,” she said. “In addition to these scams, this year could bring a host of other scam situations involving the census, COVID-19 and stimulus checks.”
COVID-19 has brought many things with it, including a litany of potential fraud and scam situations.
“Most often these individuals claim they have cures or treatments for COVID-19,” Brandon said. “They may even claim to have testing strips and air filters that can remove the virus from the air.”
In addition to the snake oil salesmen type of scams, because this deals with a medical issue, some of the traditional healthcare scams also come into play with COVID-19.
“People may pretend to be a healthcare provider or hospital conducting contact tracing,” she said. “They then tell the person they have been exposed to the virus and advise them to click a link or download a form. This downloads malware onto a device and gives the scammer access to personal information.”
Throughout this year, the possibility of census-related scams is high. In these cases, individuals pretend to work for the Census Bureau and ask questions that allow them to steal personal or financial information. For more information on how to avoid census scams, visit the United States Census 2020 website.
In stimulus-related scams, people may pretend to be a person representing a financial institution of some sorts. These often involve helping an individual get their stimulus money quicker or needing to verify personal information to get a stimulus check. Visit the IRS website to learn more about these scams.
Don’t Become a Victim
Scammers are good at what they do, otherwise this wouldn’t be such a problem. Especially when dealing with older adults, a scammer’s motive is to get the person to trust them. However, there are several things older adults can do to prevent themselves from becoming another victim.
“Do not trust everything you read, see or hear,” Brandon said. “If you are unsure of something, try to verify the information by conducting an online search. If it involves an emergency, verify the information with a family member or friend by contacting them on their known contact information.”
Other tips for preventing scams and fraud are
- Don’t give money to a charity before determining if it is legitimate.
- Hang up on calls asking for personal or financial information.
- Keep computer and cellphone software updated.