Seniors are more likely to be targeted by scammers and fraudsters for a variety of reasons. Older adults are more trusting and polite; we are used to living in a world where we can look someone in the eye and make a deal - and unfortunately, that is not the case anymore. Typically, retirees also have more assets and therefore, have more to lose. Finally, retirees are more likely to be independent and isolated from social networks and are less likely to report a fraud if it occurs.
All of this sounds scary, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a target. Scammers use a variety of tactics that make their offers seem legitimate and their initial outreach could be by phone, mail, door-to-door, email or fake websites. Scammers are trying to convince consumers to give our personal information or send them money.
Everyone should be aware of the common signs of a scam:
You’re asked to wire money or send a prepaid gift card to a stranger.
Being asked to send money through an unusual form of payment — especially to someone you don’t know personally — is a red flag. Money wires and prepaid gift cards are common requests because they are untraceable and irreversible forms of payment.
You’ve won a contest you didn’t enter.
If you won a contest you don’t remember entering, it’s probably a scam. Someone may claim you won the lottery, a contest or a prize you never signed up to win and ask for personal information in return.
You have to pay a fee to receive your “prize.”
Here’s your second red flag if you think you’ve won a contest or prize. The scammer will ask you to send money, sometimes overseas, explaining that you need to pay a fee to collect your winnings and you will receive the prize after you pay - but it never comes. Remember that legitimate sweepstakes are free and require no payments.
You’re pressured to “act now!”
This is a common tactic employed by scammers and fraudsters to pressure you into making a rash decision. If you feel pressured to make a quick decision that makes you feel uneasy, exit the situation.
Your personal information is requested.
If someone contacts you and requests information like your bank account, social security number or Medicare number, this is a warning that it might be fraud. A good rule to follow is unless you contact the organization yourself, do not provide your personal information.
Sometimes the scammer will claim to be your bank or a government institution claiming there's a problem with your account that needs to be resolved. If you are unsure, go to a library or search the internet for a legitimate phone number and call the institution directly.
A large down payment is needed.
A request for a large up-front payment is a sign that the person you are talking to might not be a legitimate. Scammers will claim that they will provide you with a service such as lawn care, tree trimming or contractor/repair services and they request a large down payment because they never plan to complete the work. Never provide more than half the money up-front and always leave at least 30 percent of the total unpaid until the job is complete.
Our sincere thanks to Ryan Lippe and The Ohio Attorney General’s Office for coming to Friendship Village of Dublin to share with members of the community information and tips about the common scams and fraud that take place in Ohio and target seniors. This blog post is a summary of the basic tips and information Ryan provided our group.
This event was not sponsored by, nor affiliated with, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The Ohio Attorney General’s office does not endorse or recommend Friendship Village of Dublin or any products or services affiliated with Friendship Village of Dublin.