With so many after-Christmas deals swamping inboxes, online shopping is more tempting than ever. And for older adults who may have mobility problems or prefer to avoid crowds and lines at the mall, shopping with a few strokes on the computer is convenient and efficient. However, older adults are also the demographic most likely to fall victim to online scams and fraud. And due to a fear of losing control over their own finances, many seniors fail to report fraud to authorities or to their families.
According to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, seniors lose $2.9 billion each year as a result of scams and older adults between the ages of 70 and 79 lose the most, on average $45,300. Adult children can help older adults steer clear of scams and fraud by staying in close contact and helping monitor their finances, setting up alerts on credit cards and bank accounts for any suspicious transactions.
Scams that target seniors aren’t always online, many are conducted through telemarketing offering cheap vacations, health care products, vitamins or free prizes. Older adults often have a small nest egg of savings and do not like to be rude over the phone or at the door and can fall prey to scammers. Seniors should never give any personal or financial information out over the phone, especially to an unknown caller.
It is estimated that 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have been financially abused, but that number may be higher because of poor reporting. More than 80 percent of telemarketing scams are among victims over the age of 60. Some of the top phone scams include IRS scams demanding that individuals pay a fine or volunteer personal information over the phone. Government agencies will always contact people through the mail first and will never issue any threats. Jury duty scams are also common and use scare tactics to get personal information like a social security number over the phone.
Recent email fraud includes PayPal scams that warn your account has been compromised and you should log in and change your account settings. Do not log in through the email, it is an attempt to gain access to financial information. Unclaimed lottery and contest winnings are also a common online scam; check the address the email is addressed to and make sure it is yours. Often this is a scam email sent to thousands of accounts.
This holiday season, enjoy the sales but be on the alert for scams and fraud, and report any suspicious activity. Learn more about how to protect yourself or a loved one from financial fraud by following this link to the National Council on Aging website.