STOP SENIOR SCAMS: Learn how to avoid fraud
By Jeremy Rodriguez
Scammers target people of all ages including older adults.
Nolan Lawrence, director of the PCA Helpline, warns that scammers typically try to target a “vulnerable population” by posing as an agency or business that potential victims already use for services. Lawrence noted that there are a number of particular organizations that scammers pretend to represent, such as AARP, the IRS, the U.S.Postal Service and Social Security.
“I’ve seen images of materials that scammers send, and some of them look really good. Some almost mirror the organization’s actual website,” Lawrence said. “In the case of AARP, scammers pretend to be from the organization to get people to send a lot more money than what an actual AARP membership costs. That’s pretty much the motive of most scams. They’re trying to get a significant amount of money for something that otherwise wouldn’t cost much.”
Additionally, there are some scams that target non-English-speaking individuals in Philadelphia. “Not only are they trying to get money, but they do this by taking advantage of any language barrier,” Lawrence said. “They may pretend to be immigration services or the government, basically saying, ‘If you don’t pay us, we’re going to send you back to your native country.’ Those calls can be very distressing.”
Scammers target older adults
Older adults are often targeted by scammers due to “a perceived sense of vulnerability,” said Dan Milloy, outreach and engagement supervisor for CARIE (Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of Elders), which provides assistance and resources to older adults and their caregivers.
“Scammers perceive that older adults are going to be more vulnerable and willing to commit to a potential scam,” Milloy said. “They find older adults to be gullible, and they just make the assumption that most older adults have more money. Plus, with Medicare being the largest federal health care paying system, I think they figure things can slip through the cracks.”
What to do if you are scammed
If you are an older Philadelphian who believes you have been scammed, contact PCA’s Helpline at 215-765-9040 for assistance.
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) website offers several tips if you believe you were scammed. If you gave a scammer money, suggestions include immediately contacting the bank, credit card company or wire-transfer company to inform them of a fraudulent charge and to reverse or stop the transaction, if possible.
Additionally, older adults can visit IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 to speak with the FTC directly and to put a recovery plan in action if they gave their social security number to a scammer. If you have a computer or cell phone which could potentially be hacked by scammers, it is advised that you update your security software. You may contact your cell phone and internet provider for more information.
Lastly, older adults should report scams to 1-877-382-4357 or online at ReportFraud.FTC.gov. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center is at IC3.gov.
“We recommend that older adults keep their information private,” Milloy said. “Treat your Medicare- and Social Security information like it’s your credit card information. Don’t give that out over the phone. Lastly, anybody who thinks their information has been compromised and needs assistance should contact CARIE immediately at 215-545-5728.”
Lawrence suggests that older adults monitor their accounts. Additionally, he noted, it’s usually a “giveaway” when scammers ask older adults to use payment methods that may be foreign to them, such as cryptocurrency, PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo and Cash App.
A “cardinal recommendation” is to “take a beat and make sure that you can verify to whom you’re sending the money. Don’t send any money or provide any information until you can absolutely confirm the validity of the recipient,” Lawrence said. “It’s always good to do due diligence, and if you reach out to PCA’s Helpline, we can refer you to the help you need.”
Helplines for scam victims
If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, you can call the following numbers:
- PCA Helpline: 215-765-9040
- Philadelphia Attorney General’s Senior Assistance Helpline: 1-866-623-2137
- CARIE LINE: 215-545-5728
- Federal Trade Commission: 1-877–FTC–HELP (382–4357)
- FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
Jeremy Rodriguez is a freelance journalist, blogger, editor and podcaster.