Five scams that target seniors

Due to their own diligence and good habits, senior citizens often find themselves targets of scams.

Retired people generally have built up an attractive pool of financial resources through a lifetime of hard work. Those assets can attract nefarious people who haven’t been as responsible with their life choices.

Additionally, senior citizens can be more trusting, and they may not be as adept with modern technology.

All of this means they need to keep up with various financial and technological scams. Here are five scams listed by the U.S. Department of Justice:

The Social Security Imposter Scam

This is a telephone scam in which the caller claims the victim’s Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious activity, or because it has been involved in a crime. They ask to confirm the victim’s Social Security number, or they may say they need to withdraw money from the victim’s bank and to store it on gift cards or in other unusual ways for “safekeeping.” Victims may be told their accounts will be seized or frozen if they fail to act quickly.  This can appear as a robocall during which victims may be told to “press 1” to speak to a government “support representative” for help reactivating their Social Security number. They also use caller ID spoofing to make it look like the Social Security Administration is calling. With such trickery, perpetrators convince victims to give up their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

The Tech Support Scam

Callers claim to be computer technicians associated with a well-known company or they may use internet pop-up messages to warn about non-existent computer problems. The scammers claim they have detected viruses, other malware, or hacking attempts on the victim’s computer. They pretend to be “tech support” and ask that the victim give them remote access to his or her computer. Eventually, they diagnose a non-existent problem and ask the victim to pay large sums of money for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.

In each of these scams, callers may be asked to use gift cards, money orders or other third party means to transfer funds out of their accounts.

The Lottery Scam

Callers typically identify themselves as lawyers, customs officials, or lottery representatives, and tell people they have won vacations, cars or thousands — even millions — of dollars. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before they can claim their prizes. Victims pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and receive nothing in return, and often are revictimized until they have no money left.

The IRS Imposter Scam

Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a wire transfer or stored value card such as a gift card. Victims who refuse to cooperate are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license.

The Romance Scam

Scammers create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.

Some general rules can help protect anyone from scams like this. Do not purchase gift cards for someone you have not met in person, do not pay for a service, especially one you did not request, with a gift card or from another untraceable third-party source.

Guard your personal information carefully and don’t share your Social Security number. Do not respond immediately to threats. If someone threatens you, or calls and claims to be a grandchild in trouble, hang up or log off, and call that grandchild directly. Then, report the threat to your local police department.

That last part is important. Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting a threat or potential scam. By reporting it, you not only help yourself but you also alert other potential victims.