We recently published a piece on how scammers know so much about us. However, protecting your personal information and your identity is just the start of ensuring you’re safe from scams.
Sadly, regardless of how much progress law enforcement is making, fighting the fraudsters is still quite a struggle. A recent Senate committee report estimates that there’s an estimated $2.9 billion lost annually by elderly adults to financial scams.
That’s why it’s up to us to protect ourselves as much as possible.
Struggling to Beat the Scammers
During a January 16 hearing, Senator Susan Collins (R) of Maine explained the difficulties law enforcement officials face. (Collins is the chairwoman for the Special Committee on Aging.)
She compared fighting fraud to “playing a game of whack-a-mole.”
“Many scams are perpetrated by criminals operating from foreign call centers,” she added, “beyond the reach of state and local law enforcement and thousands of miles from the seniors whom they victimize.”
Most Common Scams
Coinciding with the hearing, the committee also released its 2019 report on the top scams affecting seniors in 2018. Of the top ten scams reported that targeted seniors, the most widespread involved IRS impersonators.
Other common scams included unsolicited phone calls (including robocalls) and sweepstakes/lottery scams. Also making the list were elder financial abuse scams, tech support scams, romance scams, impending lawsuit scams, and more. Identity theft also made the top ten list.
Law Enforcement Efforts
Unfortunately, fraudsters are always looking for new ways to take advantage of seniors.
While there has been some success when it comes to law enforcement and criminal charges being filed, the authorities can’t catch everything. Scams persist, they say, because these criminals are adept at gaining the trust and cooperation of their targets. Often, they’ll seduce or even harass their victims.
The Senate committee suggests not only hanging up if you receive a suspicious call but also reporting it. There’s a toll-free fraud hotline available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. By calling 855-303-9470, you can receive assistance from skilled investigators and/or report suspected fraud.
Additionally, the committee has several tips they suggest everyone follow as well.
Tips from the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging for Avoiding Scams
- Con artists force you to make decisions fast and may threaten you.
- Con artists disguise their real numbers, using fake caller IDs.
- Con artists sometimes pretend to be the government (e.g. IRS).
- Con artists try to get you to provide personal information to them, like your Social Security number or account numbers.
- Before giving out your credit card number or money, please ask a friend or family member about it.
- Beware of offers of free travel!