Scammers Are Targeting Older Adults in a Costly New Way, FBI Warns
Con artists are trying to convince you to send cash through a shipping company.
Scammers will do whatever they can to scam you out of your money or personal information. Their schemes may start with something as simple as a "hi" text message, or utilize the names of well-known retailers. But no matter what they choose to do, these con artists often rely on tricking their victims through technology—which is sometimes easier to pull off for those of us who grew up before the age of smartphones and social media. Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning that scammers are targeting older adults with a new tech-based scheme. Read on to find out more about the rise of this costly scam.
Older adults are losing the most money to online scams.
The internet has provided scammers with an enormous playing field. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that it received 800,944 complaints about online fraud schemes in 2022, which is actually 5 percent lower than the year before. But while the number of complaints decreased, the amount lost to scammers increased significantly, by 49 percent.
Last year, victims lost over $10.3 billion to internet scams, according to the IC3. And the most affected? Older adults. The agency said that the "greatest dollar loss" was seen among U.S. adults who were 60 and older in 2022.
The FBI is warning about a new way scammers are targeting this age demographic.
Scammers are quick to switch up their tactics in order to hit more victims. Recently, officials have started seeing a "nationwide uptick" in a new tech support scheme targeting older individuals, the FBI warned in a July 18 public service announcement.
"Tech support scammers usually initiate contact with older adult victims through a phone call, text, email, or pop-up window purporting to be support from a legitimate company," the agency explained.
This type of scam is hardly new, of course. But in a unique twist to the tech support scheme, the FBI said scammers are now trying to convince victims to send cash through shipping companies.
Victims are being instructed to send cash wrapped in magazines.
This scheme usually starts with a fake message to someone, either claiming that there has been fraudulent activity for a subscription service or that they are owed a potential refund for the service, according to the FBI. Follow-up messages are then sent containing a phone number that they are instructed to call for assistance with the problem.
After calling, victims are connected with a scammer who convinces them to download a software program in order for the refund to be deposited in their bank account. But once the scammer gains remote access to the victim's computer, they will claim they "accidentally" put a larger amount than intended in the victim's bank account, and that they will lose their job if the extra money is not returned.
"The scammer instructs the victim to send the money in cash, wrapped in a magazine(s), or similar method of concealment, via a shipping company to a name and address provided by the scammer," the FBI further explained. "Most recently, scammers have instructed victims to ship packages containing money to pharmacies and retail businesses that are equipped to receive shipping company packages."
The agency is advising older adults on how to protect themselves.
You might assume you would never fall for a scam asking you to send cash concealed in magazines, but once you get wrapped up in a scheme like this, it can be hard to see clearly. With that in mind, the FBI has provided several tips to help you protect yourself against this costly new scam.
As a first line of defense, the agency said that you should not click on "unsolicited pop-ups, links sent via text messages, or email links or attachments." You should also not contact a telephone number provided in any of these pop-ups, texts, or emails.
But if you end up making either of these mistakes, you still have time to save yourself if you refuse to download any software pushed on you by a stranger.
"Never allow an unknown individual who contacted you to have control of your computer," the FBI warned.
If you happen to make it to this step, the agency has one final tip to keep your money safe from scammers: "Never send cash via mail or shipping companies."