Targeted financial scams on the rise


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What are the most common scams today? My relative has been the victim of some over the years and may need some help avoiding fraudulent schemes.

Although many scams today are universal, some types of fraud specifically target older people or affect them disproportionately. Unfortunately, these targeted scams are on the increase.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in 2021 there were more than 92,000 victims of fraud over the age of 60, resulting in losses of approximately $1.7 billion. This is a 74% increase in losses compared to 2020.

Below are some of the most common scams reported in the past year.

Government Impersonators: These scams often start with a call, email, or text from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Medicare, or a fake agency. Scammers will falsely claim that money is owed or that Social Security or Medicare benefits may be cut. They will threaten to fine, arrest or deport the individual if immediate payment is not made or personal information is not provided. Often scammers spoof their caller ID to make it look like the call is from a government phone number. However, government agencies never call, email or text asking for money or personal information.

Lottery contests and scams: Scammers can contact their victims by phone, mail or email saying that a contest or other prize has been won. Then they request the payment of fees or taxes to distribute the prize. They can say that the chances of winning increase if money is sent. Scammers will ask for these fees in the form of a prepaid debit card, wire transfer, money order, or cash. Scammers will try to mislead by pretending to belong to well-known companies that run real sweepstakes or fake official-sounding agencies.

robot calls: One of the biggest consumer complaints is about unwanted calls from automatic dialing software, known as robocalls. Unwanted robocalls annoy consumers and can be a vehicle for fraud against trusted individuals. Some robocalls claim that a vehicle warranty is expiring and payment is required to renew it. The robocalls can also claim that your identity has been stolen or that irregular activity has been reported on your bank account. Another common robocall is “Hello, can you hear me?” call. When the person answering says “yes”, the scammer records their voice and hangs up. The criminal then stores the voice recording and uses it to authorize fraudulent activities. As mentioned above, your caller ID can be “spoofed” to make the call look authentic.

Computer tech support scams: Tech support scammers can make it look like there’s a serious problem with your computer or phone. A pop-up message or blank screen will appear on a computer or phone, letting you know that the device is compromised and needs to be repaired. When the support number is called for help, the scammer can either request remote access to your computer or charge a fee to have it repaired. These pop-ups are not genuine and there may be nothing to fix on the device.

Grandparent Scam: This scam takes advantage of a grandparent who has trouble saying no to his grandchildren. Scammers will mine data, often on social media, to learn the names of grandchildren. The scammer will then call and pretend to be a grandchild to tell the grandparent that something is wrong and ask for money to solve an urgent financial problem (legal issue, car accident, overdue rent, etc.). The fake grandchild will tell the grandparent not to call other parents to avoid embarrassment. Once the money is sent, either through prepaid cards or money orders, the scammers are gone and the money can’t be traced.

Other scams: Other common scams are online romance scams, COVID-19 miracle cures, and bogus investment plans. Scammers will pose as representatives of Medicare or health insurers to obtain personal information and submit fake insurance claims. There are also internet and email scams, including phishing emails or text messages, which appear to come from a bank or online stores. For more information on the different types of scams, as well as tips for deterring scammers, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice website at consumer.ftc.gov. The Federal Communications Commission also publishes guides for consumers, including “Call Blocking Tools and Resources” and “Stop Robocalls and Unwanted Text Messages,” to help prevent consumers from falling victim to fraud.

“Savvy Living” is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC’s “Today Show.” The column, and others like it, are available to read about the American Legion’s Planned Giving Program, a way to establish your legacy of supporting the organization while meeting your current financial needs. To learn more about the process and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit from, go to legion.org/plannedgiving. By clicking on “Learn more”, an “E-newsletter” button will be displayed, where you can subscribe to receive regular information on planned giving.

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