As technology continues to evolve and information flows at an ever-faster pace, new financial scams pop up practically every day. Unfortunately, senior citizens are often the target of these scams, because criminals assume they have healthy retirement savings to tap into. But, low-income seniors are often targeted as well, with even more devastating results. Here are some of the latest scams targeting seniors, and what you can do to protect yourself or someone you care about.
IRS Phone Scam
One of the most troubling scams currently targeting seniors involves phone calls claiming to be from the IRS. Scammers leave a series of official-sounding, increasingly threatening phone messages saying that if you don’t call back and provide your bank account information to pay back taxes, you will be arrested and taken to jail. This is, of course, not even remotely true. Regardless, it is alarming to receive such aggressive communication. If you receive these calls, simply ignore them. Remember, most official IRS communication will come in as certified mail, not a phone message. And, as always, never provide bank account or credit card information over the phone to unsolicited callers. See the full list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams here.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
As the price of prescription drugs continue to increase, many seniors on fixed incomes are looking for ways to save on the medications they need. In some cases, mail order pharmacies can provide significant savings, but you have to be vigilant to ensure the medications you receive are legitimate, because many are not. Do your research before ordering any prescription drugs online to ensure you’re working with a reputable distributor. It’s not just your money on the line, it’s also your health.
Another popular phone scam targeting seniors has to do with Medicare. The scammer calls claiming to be a representative of Medicare calling about a problem with a recent claim. Once they get the senior to give them their personal information, they bill Medicare and keep the money. They may also use the personal information to perform identity theft.
Tech Support Scams
This scam involves someone claiming your PC is “compromised” and needs immediate repair. Scammers do this two ways:
- You receive a phone call or message from the scammer, claiming to be from Microsoft, Toshiba or another tech brand. They claim your computer has been compromised and tell you must have it fixed immediately, and that they can complete the repair if you give them your credit card information so they can get started. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with your computer, and they bill you for “repairs” they don’t do.
- In the second scenario, a pop-up box comes up while you’re on the computer, claiming that your machine is compromised and is now frozen, and you must call a number to fix it immediately; when you call, the scam proceeds as above. It appears as though the warning is coming directly from your own computer and is so authentic looking, even the Today Show’s Natalie Morales fell for it.
If you find yourself in either situation, simply ignore the warnings and move on. If you suspect there is a genuine concern about your computer’s function or security, call tech support yourself directly. Or, take the computer in to a reputable repair provider.
Unfortunately, new scams pop up every day and it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. Protect yourself by staying vigilant and conducting research if you run across something that seems suspicious. If you think you have been the victim of a scam, fraud or identity theft, contact your local police department’s fraud division, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission or your state’s Attorney General’s office.