The Latest Senior Scams

Older adults are a vulnerable population when it comes to being the victims of fraud. Seniors need to be aware of the latest twists on these scams which specifically target people 65 and older.

Social Security Fraud

Through the years, there have been various versions of different scams regarding social security benefits. A recent warning, just issued in April, comes from Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis. She is warning citizens about a caller-ID “spoofing” scheme misusing the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) Fraud Hotline phone number (800-269-0271).

The scam involves seniors receiving a phone call displaying the OIG Fraud Hotline phone number (above) on a caller-ID screen. This is a scam. OIG employees do not place outgoing calls from the Fraud Hotline 800 number. Do not engage with these calls or provide personal information.

In this scam, fraudsters use a variety of false scenarios or threats to request personal information or payments which they may request in the form of a gift cards or prepaid debit card. The caller may claim to be from a “legal department,” and they may state that your Social Security number (SSN) has been involved in fraudulent activity. They may also accuse citizens of committing crimes, and may threaten arrest by Federal marshals.

Please note SSA and OIG employees do contact citizens by telephone for official purposes, and may request someone confirm personal information over the phone. However, SSA and OIG employees will never threaten you for information or promise any type of official action in exchange for personal information or payment. If this happens, the call is a scam and you should immediately hang up the phone. Click on the link below to report the fraud to the SSA.

Grandparent Scams

This scam involves a person calling a grandparent posing as a grandchild (usually a grandson). The caller will present several made-up scenarios in which he needs cash sent to him immediately. Callers say they have been in a car accident, or legal trouble and need cash for bail or an attorney. In another scenario, the “grandchild” is traveling and has run out of cash or been the victim of a crime and needs money to get home.

Fraudsters get a grandparent’s name through a variety of sources such as social media sites, e-mail contact lists, or they may be a casual acquaintance of your family. Another method is to deceive you when you answer the phone. The caller will say, “Hello, grandpa,” and wait for you to say, “Ryan, is that you?” The Federal Trade Commission says this scam plays on your emotions and sense of loyalty. For example, callers will say you are the only person they trust enough to contact or to not tell anyone else.

Callers can be rather dramatic such as sobbing uncontrollably or saying they are very scared. You may not recognize the voice but the call can be muffled or the connection poor and you want to believe this is your grandchild and help them.  They also give details about a grandchild’s personal life–which they often get from social media sites–to make you believe them. Scammers will often give you very specific instructions on how to send them cash. The FTC has received reports that victims were told to divide bills into envelopes and place them between the pages of a magazine. They were then asked to send the contents through different carriers including the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

FTC reports that people from all age groups reported individual losses of about $2,000 a year to these types of imposters. However, for people over 70, the median loss was $9,000. FTC advises the following tips to avoid being a victim of a grandparent scam:

  • Inform other people and spread the work about these calls with other people and if you have ever received one.
  • Don’t immediately act on the call–no matter how serious the situation sounds.
  • Call your grandchild or his/her parent to check out the story–even if the caller told you not to contact anyone else.
  • Be careful what you post on social media.
  • Avoid answering a call from an 800 number and unknown numbers from your local area code. Scammers are adept at using local phone numbers to gain a victim’s trust. Do not call back missed calls in which you do not know the number.



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