I like to think while I may be older, I’m not naive. Unfortunately, however, even the best of us can all fall for a well-conceived scam. As technology develops and we age, a slippery slope can arise, and extreme caution is necessary. The F.B.I. says senior fraud accounts for some $3 billion in losses annually, and it’s growing. For example, in 2020, the F.B.I. reports they saw a 69% increase in fraud complaints over the previous year.
The pandemic and isolation compounded these crimes, according to law enforcement. In just the past few months, I have received calls from a robotic voice claiming to be from Social Security, another claiming to be from Amazon saying a problem with my credit card for the new iPhone I ordered. But, of course, these calls were scams. Then there are the constant sales phishing calls about my car’s expiring warranty.
My favorite experience with a con artist was when I received the “Grandparents” scam call. The voice on the other end said, “Hello grandpa, it’s me and I’m in trouble. I’ve been arrested and I need bail money.” Thankfully, I had heard of this before, and I knew where my grandkids were, so I told the caller, “Too bad, I never really liked you anyway,” the caller quickly hung up.
How do these cons get your information? They gather much of your personal information from your social media. Law enforcement uses social media as well to track criminal activity and identities. One federal investigator told me we need to keep making people aware of how criminals get your information. Remember, Social Security, the I.R.S., and government agencies will not call you demanding money or gift cards.
The Overland Park Police Department says the “grandparents phone scam” is the one they see more often. Another example is a scammer who sent someone to the victim’s house in a recent local case. The victim took cash out to the street and gave it to a courier who left with the funds. Other instances involved victims instructed to purchase gift cards or go to an A.T.M. and withdraw some money.
In 2020 the F.B.I. reports 3,457 Kansans were victims of various scams amounting to about $19 million in losses. The F.B.I. says seniors are targets because we tend to be trusting and polite. However, many senior victims never report these crimes as they feel embarrassed or concerned that family members may think they can no longer care for themselves. Authorities also say Seniors are more often a target because they are available, have savings and other assets.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas City F.B.I. field office says Romance and Confidence screams are what they see the most. A Romance scam is where perpetrators gain the trust of their victims, eventually convincing them to send them money. A confidence scam is where the criminal convinces the victim they are acting in their best interest. The “grandparents call” is an example. If you get a call like this, police say hang up and call the agency reportedly holding your loved one to verify the claim.
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local F.B.I. field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
….that’s 30…stay safe.