Written by: Daniel Gleich
Financial scams that deliberately target senior citizens happen all too frequently these days. Since identity theft crimes tend to be hard to prosecute and sometimes will even go unreported by the victims, they are considered "low risk" crimes. This is likely why so many people engage in identity theft: They believe they can get away with it unscathed.
Senior citizens are popular targets for identity theft because they are more likely to have saved and invested more money for retirement than other age groups. Many of the people committing these crimes believe that this age group is fair game because they already have more money or better health-care options. However, identity theft is not a crime that only wealthy citizens are victims of; it's a risk that low-income senior citizens may have to deal with, too.
Everyone in the U.S. over 65 who is a citizen or permanent resident can qualify for Medicare. While this is a great way to ensure that senior citizens are covered if they are ever in a medical bind, it also makes it easy for scammers to prey on them for health insurance fraud. This is because scammers don't have to research the victim to figure out who their insurance provider is: They know it's probably Medicare.
In these scams, the criminals get in contact with the victim and claim that they are Medicare agents to get seniors to give out personal information. This can be done over the phone, over email, or even at makeshift clinics where they deliver fake services for seniors solely to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
Since seniors had to learn how to use computers and the Internet later in life and did not grow up with this technology, they are not as adept at maneuvering what is and isn't safe online. Due to this, they are easier targets for online scams.
One popular scam is pop-ups that mimic antivirus software to get users to download fake software to get rid of the virus. The user may purchase this software and find that they now have a virus on their computer that could potentially share personal information stored on the computer as well as important usernames and passwords with the software's creator.
Another type of Internet scam is email/phishing scams, which steal money and personal information. These scams trick the victim by pretending to be a person in authority and urging quick action, with a threat of severe consequences if that action is ignored. These scams play on a person's psychology and are often incredibly persuasive; the victim becomes focused on the importance of fixing the supposed problem and may not think clearly about the reliability of the rest of the content. These emails often:
All it takes is one click and you could be at risk from an Internet scam. These phishing attacks usually contain information personalized to the victim, so they can be difficult to ignore; the criminal often studies their target in advance so when they email the victim, the scam lures them in without raising red flags.
When criminals don't want to pay taxes, other people's Social Security numbers appear much more valuable. They can use other Social Security numbers to avoid paying their taxes through a variety of different means.
Social Security numbers can be sold online and used multiple times by a variety of criminals. Once a person has that number, for all intents and purposes, they become you, and they can collect your benefits and income, establish residences, use your health insurance, and commit crimes. It can be difficult to bounce back if you've had your Social Security number stolen, but it's not impossible.
Con artists know that people born in the 1930s through the 1950s were often raised to believe that people are trustworthy and you should be polite. These people become prime targets because con artists know that it will be difficult for the victim to say no. Identity theft also goes unreported in most cases, either because they are ashamed or because the victim isn't sure who to call about it. These are some common scams that seniors tend to encounter:
Social media is a great tool to keep in touch with family and friends spread around the world, but not everybody on social media has good intentions. Often, criminals turn to popular social media platforms to collect information about potential targets because senior citizens may not think twice when sharing personal details. Things like family names, birthdays, pet names, and even birthdays, all of which are common passwords, can help criminals to potentially access your login details across various websites.