If you thought grandparents were among those who easily had the wool pulled over their eyes, guess again.
A new study reports that senior consumers have the lowest risk of being scammed, according to the 2017 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report. But that doesn’t mean scammers aren’t targeting grandparents. While data shows susceptibility declines with age, scam victims who are seniors reported higher median losses. Why it could most likely be due to different types of scams aimed at this group, as well as their access to more financial resources.
Scams targeting seniors
The following scams frequently target seniors more than any other age groups. In these scams, con artists take advantage of seniors’ close ties with their family, other social groups, religious organizations and charities. They also prey on seniors who are apt to be alone. In terms of romance scams, these frequently target older people who have had a spouse die and maybe seeking companionship.
- Grandparent or emergency scams: This scam starts with a phone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild, niece or nephew, or other young family member. Scammers research victims via Social Media and learn family names, travel plans and other personal details. The faux grandchild will claim to be out of town and in an emergency scenario – this could range from a car crash to a wrongful arrest. The scammer urges the senior to send money immediately and to not tell mom or dad. Read more about emergency scams.
- Investment cons: These cons often target seniors due to their larger financial portfolios and resources. They often prey on longstanding group connections – such as a religious organization or an ethnic group – where members trust one another. Even if you are a smart investor you can still become a victim to this scam. Con artists are great at persuasion and they often learn the weaknesses of their targets and alter their schemes accordingly. Read more about investment cons.
- Romance scams: Seniors who are widowed or divorced can be key targets of romance scams. These scammers prey on lonely people looking to connect and may take months to develop before requesting money. The emotional abuse to the victim can be even more hurtful than losing the money. Con artists create fictional stories, identities and then trick you into falling for a person who most likely doesn’t exist. Read more about romance scams.
Tips to avoid cons
If you are grandparents or you have grandparents here are some easy tips to help you avoid these cons before they might happen.
- Ask for another perspective. All of the above cons could work because the target feels ashamed – or pressured – and keeps the scam to themselves. If you’ve been targeted by something that seems suspicious, don’t be ashamed to seek outside advice from friends or family.
- Look into it. If something seems odd – a new romance requesting money or an instant emergency – search for it online. Scammers often reuse images or stories over and over again. Past victims will post about their experiences online, and you can learn from their stories. org/ScamTracker is a smart place to read about others’ experiences.
- Ask the family what they are sharing on the Internet. Seniors can be susceptible to emergency scams and other ploys because they aren’t familiar with the information about themselves and their family available online. You may not be able to control your family’s Social Media accounts, but do familiarize yourself with what is being shared on such sites as Facebook, etc.
- Try not to act on the fly. Con artists almost always try to pressure their victim into acting before there’s time to think it over. Don’t fall for it!
- If it sounds too good to be true … Try and abide by the old saying: ‘If it sounds too good to be true,’it most likely is.’