SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- The FBI reports at least 20% of all seniors in the US fall victim to financial abuse in their lifetime. The estimated loss ranges from $2 billion to $38 billion each year.
That’s why the FBI is working to educate seniors about potential fraud and how to keep your finances and personal information safe in the age of technology.
State and local officials held a roundtable discussion in Springfield Wednesday, Sept. 23, to discuss common scams and fraud schemes seniors may fall victim to, and what they can do to prevent it.
The FBI reports three main ways seniors are targeted:
- 20% is third party scams – such as sweepstakes, home repair, foreign lotteries, investments, penny stocks, and real estate.
- 20% is done by a trusted person – like accountants, doctors, neighbors, bankers, and lawyers.
- 60% is done by family members – someone related to the victim, are in control of their finances, or someone who recently became their caretaker
Troy Murdock, Area Supervisor for FBI Office in Springfield, says these scams may sound simple, but in reality, are quite complex. He says many are made up of a crime ring that stretches across states and countries.
These scams typically take place via mail, over the phone, or most likely, over the internet.
Some examples include romance or catfishing scams, where someone adds you as a friend on Facebook or over a dating site and gains your trust. They may ask you for small amounts of money at first, but over time, can scam you out of thousands or millions of dollars.
Others may use a fake Caller ID to call you and claim there is a warrant for your arrest, and you must send gift cards in order to clear your name.
Some scammers may even call, acting as your grandchild, and ask for you to bail them out of jail. Urgency is a key tactic for these fraudsters.
But why are seniors the main target?
One reason is social isolation and loneliness. Seniors may have recently lost their spouse, gotten a divorce, and are alone for the first time in their adult lives. These scammers prey on emotions.
The FBI also says seniors typically:
- Have large savings or investments
- Have excellent credit
- Pose less risk to criminals
- Have cognitive or physical impairments
- Are more forgetful
- And are not familiar with computers, smart phones or social media
The FBI says the best thing you can do is be cautious.
Murdock says if you don’t recognize a number calling you, don’t answer it. If they want to get a hold of you, they will leave a voicemail.
It’s also important to know who has access to your bank accounts, and be cautious when assigning a Power of Attorney.
Murdock says it’s a good idea to have good contacts at your bank who can alert you to possible scams.
And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.