Teaching Seniors New Tricks to Avoid Old (and New) Scams

Teaching Seniors New Tricks to Avoid Old (and New) Scams

Leave it to fraudsters to turn a move designed to protect your identity into a scam opportunity.

Here’s what you should know so you don’t fall victim: 

  •  The new cards are free. If you get a call asking you to send money to receive your new card, it’s a scam; just hang up.
  •  Medicare already has the information needed to issue your new card. If you get a call asking for your Social Security number, bank or credit card information, or any other personal information, that’s a scam. Medicare uses the name and address on file with the Social Security Administration. If you have recently moved or had a name change, you can update your information online. 
  • Protect your new card, destroy the old one. Even though your new card doesn’t include your Social Security number, it could be used to fraudulently obtain medical services if it is lost or stolen, so keep it in a safe place. Properly dispose of your old card by shredding or cutting it up as soon as the new one arrives; don’t toss the intact card into the trash or recycling bin


According to the 2017 FTC Consumer Sentinel Report Data Book, younger people (ages 20-29) reported losing money to fraud more often than those over the age of 70. Another recent survey revealed that millennials were three times more likely to experience a financial loss as the result of a phone scam than baby boomers, and six times more likely to give up personal information over the phone if the caller knew the last four digits of their Social Security number! And yet, scammers continue to target seniors because they assume older adults may be lonely and more trusting than others. Or, perhaps they are targeted because they are more “profitable,” as the FTC report also notes that when those over age 70 do fall victim to a scam, their losses are significantly greater. A little knowledge can go a long way to help anyone avoid becoming a victim of a scam. Here are some of the most common scams that target seniors, as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Tech support scams.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC ) has identified tech support scams as one ofthe top two schemes harming older adults. Tech support scams can occur in a number of ways, but they usually start with a “technical support representative” reaching out to prospective victims with a phone call or an onscreen pop-up message, indicating a virus has been detected on the victim’s computer. The “technical support representative” will then ask for remote access to the “infected” device, telling the victim they have identified the issue (such as a virus or malware) and they can remove the issue – as soon as the victim sends a check, provides a credit card number, or issues a bank or wire transfer. This scam is so effective that victims are often targeted again in a related refund scam that works like this: A scammer will call and ask the victim if they were happy with the fraudulent tech support service. When the response is “no,” the caller offers to secure a refund – for a fee. While seniors are often the target for both tech support and refund scams, anyone can fall victim. Tech support scams were so widespread in 2017 that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recently issued a public service announcementto warn consumers about them. Earlier this month, the FTC issued an alert about a new tech support refund scam, where scammers request permission to access consumers’ computers in order to issue a refund under the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support program.

In addition to being aware of the scammers’ tactics, consumers can avoid becoming a victim of tech support related scams by:

  • Know that legitimate tech support representatives do not make an initial contact with users.
  • Don’t engage in a conversation or click on a link in a pop-up message.
  • Keep all software, including security software, updated

Prize or sweepstakes scam.

This is the second operation the FTC has identified as targeting seniors. Scammers contact victims by phone or by mail, telling them they have won a prize or cash that will be delivered once the victim has paid a small processing fee by credit card, bank account draft, or wire. The victim pays the fee, but the “prize” is never delivered. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have won a legitimate prize, you will not be asked to pay a fee. And NEVER wire money to someone you don't know.

Grandparents’ scam.

Scammers play on seniors’ emotions by calling them and pretending to be their grandchild in some sort of trouble. The scammer then asks for money to be wired to them to get them out of their situation, and asks the senior to not tell anyone, especially not the “grandchild’s” parents. Never do anything in haste. If you receive such a call, ask for a number you can call back, or call your grandchild directly. And once again, don’t wire money

If you have purchased our ID shield protection plan you can always call the Kroll Investigators at 888.494.8519, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT if you ever get a suspicious call, email, online pop-up message, or notice by mail. 

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