Sunday is Grandparents Day and as the focus of attention turns to senior citizens, it’s an opportunity to review some of the financial trickery this vulnerable population constantly faces. But, local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau remind seniors there are a myriad email and phone call scams aimed at the elderly year-round.
“Unfortunately, they do target the elderly,” Great Bend Police Chief David Bailey said of scammers. “They do get taken advantage of.”
Bailey said they get reports of the various scams on a regular basis. They keep track of them and try to investigate, but this is tough since most of the email addresses and phone numbers are untraceable.
Since 2010 the number of Americans 65 or older has increased 37 percent, said Wichita-based Denise Groene, BBB state director whose region includes Kansas. “As the huge Baby Boomer generation ages, that percentage is bound to increase even more.”
So will the number of scammers, anxious to take advantage of the politeness, memory loss and sometimes the loneliness of this aging population, Groene said. “Older citizens are more likely to have their homes paid off and a nest egg socked away. All this adds up to a perfect storm situation for the would-be thieves of the world.”
A 2015 survey indicated that nearly $10 billion is lost annually by seniors to email and phone scams, and some of that money is lost right here. “We’ve had citizens who have been victims,” Bailey said, adding is sad to see people fall prey to these criminals.
“If someone thinks they are being scammed, they can call us,” Bailey said, assuring there is no shame in filing such a report. “We want to assist citizens with any needs they have.”
Below is BBB’s summary of the most frequent threats faced by the elderly in recent years. “If you or someone you care about is in this demographic, review this run-down of scams and share the information with others,” Groene said.
There are common tactics, words and phrases used by crooks who are attempting to “set the hook” into a scam victim. Watch for these:
• “Act now or you’ll miss out!” Variations on this high-pressure technique are always warnings of a potential scam.
• “Don’t reveal this to anyone!” If they want you to keep something secret from your friends or family, assume it’s a con.
• “You can easily make money!” Promises of quick and easy loans, winnings or earnings indicate a trick is up.
• “You must wire money at once!” Any insistence on wired money or pre-paid debit cards mean it’s a scam. Never do it.
Additionally, beware of a caller who refuses to stop calling you even though you requested it. Also watch out for bad grammar and spelling errors in emails or texts. Unprofessionalism of this sort may mean unfamiliarity with English (many scams originate in foreign countries) or simply another sloppy scammer at work.
Worst of the current scams
Here’s an abbreviated list of frequent elder-scams being reported:
• Medicare fraud. New cards have gone out in our area and scammers are at work trying to get your new card number. Remember that Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask for your personal or private information.
• Grandparent scam. This old favorite of crooks is still in heavy use. It’s the scam where a caller opens the conversation with something like, “Hi, Grandma! It’s me!” The victim is supposed to assume it’s their grandchild. The caller claims to be in an emergency situation (perhaps out of the country) and in need of quick funds. Hang up.
• IRS scam. Another old scam that shows no sign of diminishing, this one claims there is a problem with your taxes and money is owed. They often threaten you with arrest. Ignore them. Like Medicare, the IRS never calls taxpayers uninvited.
• Remote-access computer scam. A scammer calls claiming your computer has been compromised with a virus. They may say they are from Microsoft and that they have a “fix” for the virus if you give them remote access to your computer. That’s when they can steal your information and get to your money.
Among the many other scams out there are the fake charity scam, low-cost health care products, investment scams and the failure-to-show-up-for-jury-duty scam.
“Space prohibits detailing all of the threats the elderly face,” Groene said. One can get more information about elder scams by contacting your Better Business Bureau at 800-856-2417, or visiting its website at bbb.org.
Reports can also be made to the Great Bend Police department at 620-793-4120 or the Barton County Sheriff’s Office at 620-793-1876.