If You're Over 65, Police Have a New Warning For You
There has been a rise in illegal activity that could hurt you or your loved ones.
Getting older has a host of benefits. Most of us look forward to retirement, which means spending more time with family, and getting to do more of what we love. Then there's the benefit of wisdom that can only come from living a full life. But there are also some obvious downsides to aging, some of which involve illegal activity, according to police. Read on to find out what authorities are warning seniors and their family members to be aware of—and how you can best protect yourself.
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Seniors are often targets of elder fraud.
Different authoritative agencies have issued warnings for senior citizens, including the FBI. In a recent public service announcement, former FBI director William Webster asked seniors to be aware of elder fraud, which refers to schemes that target seniors specifically.
Webster himself was a target of a lottery scam back in 2014, and while he was able to avoid losing money, not all people in his age group can say the same. Now, police are warning about an increase in criminal activity singling out this vulnerable population.
This age group is becoming a more common target for scammers.
If you haven't ever fallen victim to a scam, consider yourself lucky. Fraudsters have gotten more creative than ever, seeking out targets over a certain age, who they believe are more likely to fall for their scams. According to the New York State Police (NYSP), they seem to be pursuing these targets more frequently.
On June 8, the NYSP issued a press release warning members of the public about a stark rise in the number of scams directed at elderly citizens. As of March 2022, NYSP in Troop A had handled 113 fraud cases, and in 2021, cases reached a whopping 442. According to the press release, last year, an estimated $1,000,000 was lost to fraudsters. So far in 2022, losses have already reached $500,000.
There are several crafty schemes you could fall for.
The NYSP outlined the different ploys that are used to con senior citizens out of money. Scammers might call your phone and allege they are a family member who has fallen ill or been arrested and needs your help. They could also call and claim to be a law enforcement officer, asking you to provide bail or funds for a family member who has been arrested.
Another call has the scammer again posing as a law enforcement officer, who will tell you that your private information—like your Social Security or bank account number—is "compromised," asking you to provide these numbers to "verify" the information they have on file. Of course, this is not the case, and they are simply tricking you into giving up confidential information on your own.
Scammers are keeping up with the times, and they might decide to text or email you instead. These messages state that one of your subscription accounts—like your cable provider, Amazon, or Netflix—has again been "compromised," and that the situation is urgent and needs your attention.
You could be asked to make a payment.
To steal money, the scammer will ask you to purchase gift cards to a big-name retailer like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or Lowe's, the NYSP said, with the gift cards ranging in amounts of $50 to $500. They could also ask you to mail cash, and this will likely sound suspicious—often they instruct you to wrap it in tin foil and use a lot of tape for the package. More sophisticated scammers might request payment in the form of Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.
Heed this warning, as your money likely won't be recovered.
Regardless of the urgency these callers try to stress, police warn that the situations posed are unrealistic and not part of general protocol. According to the NYSP, police will not contact family members for bail money, nor will they ask for money to fix situations with your Social Security number or bank account. Police are also not going to text you for your account information during an investigation.
Police are asking senior citizens and their family members to be aware of these scams and to resist the urge to act right away. Protect your information and never provide banking information or log in to your accounts while the caller is on the phone. Take the time to verify the caller's identity, the NYSP said, and ask them questions that a stranger wouldn't be able to answer. You can also corroborate the situation with a family member.
Finally, never send the money the caller is asking for, as you are unlikely to get it back. The NYSP confirmed that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation works on these cases, but there are limitations to what they can do. "Most times, the suspects are out of the country and due to complexity of the cases, victims will not get the money they sent," the NYSP press release said.