The internet has opened up huge avenues for information and commerce. The online world has endless marketplaces, databases, and communication possibilities. That openness has been, in many ways, a precious gift for aging populations, enabling senior citizens to do research, keep up with the news, and stay connected with friends and family in remote places.
Unfortunately, the same freedom that allows for an older adult to speak with his old baseball buddy overseas with the push of button also allows him to get preyed upon by eastern European cybercriminals. One click gets you the answers to the Sunday crossword puzzle, another click transfers the contents of your life savings to a teenager in St. Petersburg. Here are a few common tricks used by by internet charlatans trying to bilk senior citizens out of their hard-earned dough.
Scammers frequently fleece the elderly by claiming to be someone other than who they are via email. Common tricks include claiming to be a medicare agent, the IRS, or a falsely imprisoned member of Nigerian royalty. This scam is so effective because it elicits the happy cooperation of the victim. Instead of mugging you at knifepoint, the scammer talks you into simply handing it over. By the time you realize you’ve been duped, it’s way too late; someone somewhere’s got your money, and only thing you know about them is that they sent you an email claiming to want to help you out.
It’s not just new technologies such as email that enable frauds to slip their paws into your pocketbook. Good old telephones still serve as a useful tool for these morally moribund thieves. The technology may be different, but the scam is much the same. Scammers make false claims, get seniors to hand over their personal information, and voila! The thieves hold the keys to the city.
Some telemarketers pose special problems to seniors due to their similarity to legitimate salesmen. Many may actually be actual business owners who realize they’ve got an easy sell and step up their pushiness. But most cases of fraud by telemarketers involved actual criminals who set out specifically to prey on vulnerable populations. According to fraud.org, people 60 years and older make up nearly a full third of all telemarketing scam victims.
Seniors often have a complex med regimen. Scammers know this. They also know that seniors frequently have lots of money, may be in the process of cognitive decline, and were likely raised to be trusting, faithful citizens. They sell fake or stolen meds to elderly adults. Easy money. This fraud can take place by any of the previously mentioned methods: mail, email, telephone. It makes no difference. This trick can come at you from any direction.
What You Can Do
Keep in mind, if something seems too outlandish, or too good, to be true, it probably is. Very few people win the lottery. Sensitive medicaid issues will not be dealt with via email. Pharmacists will be upfront about costs and med updates.
Be vigilant. Keep these scams in mind. If something seems suspicious, speak with someone. You could help take down a predator.