Seniors Are Especially Vulnerable To Phone Scams

It’s not the IRS calling. Like many of you, I get calls from someone “claiming” to be the IRS.

They leave messages on my answering machine urging me to call them back or a warrant may be issued for my arrest. This sounds so dire that I am sure some people get nervous and call the number. You just took the first step into getting swindled, scammed or financially exploited. Thirty-five thousand people have gotten these calls according to the Federal Trade Commission and have reported 10 million in losses. Scams abound especially when it’s tax season so please be vigilant so your tax refund doesn’t go into someone else’s pocket!

Seniors are especially vulnerable to scams because scammers are skilled at preying on their fears or hopes by using a lure of dire consequences like a warrant, a grandchild in trouble or some great windfall like winning a lot of money.

Scammers get us to believe that there is an urgency, some imminent deadline and you need to act immediately or miss the opportunity to get the promised “inheritance.” They play on our natural impulsiveness and don’t want to give you time to think too hard.

Sometimes they ask for money or a bank check to pay the “fee” that will release your millions but most often they are looking for your personal information which is the key to all your financial resources.

As you are reading this you may think that I would not be that gullible but it happens to ordinary people every day. The National Institute of Justice surveyed 2000 people in Florida and Arizona to try to determine the nature and extent of consumer fraud happening in our country. 60% of people in the study reported at least one fraud attempt in the past year and 14 percent reported they were victims of fraud.

The most common types of fraud were phony magazine subscriptions, prize scams, donations to nonexistent charities and retrieval of personal financial information under false pretenses.

There are too many scenarios to try to highlight in this article but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together a website highlighting the scams that are out there. You can even sign up for SCAM alerts.

The website also includes practical information on how to stay ahead of scammers with tips from the National Consumer Protection Agency. Check out this very helpful website and share the information with your family and friends for the latest scams and how to avoid them. consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

The FTC is working hard to shut down scams that prey on vulnerable seniors but they need your help. They advise, “If you get a letter, an email, a text message or a phone call that says you’ve won a prize, here’s what you can do to steer clear of a scam. 1) Never pay to collect a prize.

Whatever they say the money is for – taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees – don’t believe them. Don’t send money or give them your checking account, credit card or social security numbers. 2) Don’t let yourself be rushed. Scammers will tell you to act now or you’ll miss out. Take your time and talk to someone you trust before you do anything. 3) Tell people you know about it. By talking about scams you might help someone you care about avoid falling for one. 4) Tell the FTC about it.

Report scams at consumer.fct.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP. Your report makes a difference and could help make losers out of scam artists running bogus sweepstakes.”

For more information on scams & how to avoid them, to report identity theft, file a consumer complaint, or get a free credit report, visit the FTC website listed at consumer.fct.gov or contact our NY Connects Helpline at ccnyc@co.chautauqua.ny.us or by calling 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582.

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