There are a wide variety of coronavirus scams that have recently appeared, from advance fee schemes and fraudulent investments to robocalls and phishing. And though they’re all an attempt to steal a victim’s money or personal information, there’s one group of people that seems to be targeted more frequently than others: seniors, or those aged 55 and older.
Why are Seniors Being Targeted?
As the Federal Trade Commission recently pointed out, scammers tend to follow the headlines, tweaking and changing their scams to align with current events and tap into people’s fears. As information about the coronavirus began to roll out, one thing that quickly became clear was that seniors were at a heightened risk of developing COVID-19. This, understandably, likely created a heightened sense of fear among the senior population and therefore more susceptible to scams based on the coronavirus.
But another reason seniors are being targeted more frequently is because seniors usually have more money to lose. According to a 2016 report released by AARP, 83% percent of US household wealth is held by people over 50. Considering that this age group has had more time to save money and acquire assets than younger groups, this makes sense. For scammers, it means that seniors are potentially the most lucrative targets.
How are Seniors Being Targeted?
Seniors are being targeted in many of the same ways as the general population, however, scammers may tweak their tactics to more specifically apply to seniors. For example, rather than receiving a phishing email from what appears to be a financial institution, a senior may receive an email that appears to be from the Social Security Administration.
According to the National Council on Aging, some of the most common coronavirus scams targeted at seniors include:
- Fraudulent products. Whether the product being sold claims to be a cure, provide immunity or simply treat the coronavirus, there’s no shortage of phony products being sold to seniors. In addition, some scammers may try to sell personal protective equipment (PPE) that is faulty or a counterfeit.
- Fake charities. Many scammers may try to take advantage of seniors’ friendly or trusting personality to solicit donations. Unfortunately, once the victim donates to the fake charity, the money is likely to go directly into the scammer’s pocket.
- Robocalls. Whether the scammer is impersonating a government or medical official, or they’re simply claiming to offer a helpful service, the scammer is most likely trying to obtain personal or financial information.
- Investment schemes. You can expect some scammers to take advantage of market uncertainty to separate seniors from their money. This may take the form of a scammer calling with a supposedly hot stock tip or an investment opportunity in a company that has developed a cure for the coronavirus.
What Can You Do?
Fortunately, there’s quite a bit you can do to protect yourself from coronavirus scams. The Federal Trade Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission have both recently released tips to help you avoid being scammed.
- Avoid offers for coronavirus vaccines or cures as there are currently no approved cures or vaccines available. There are treatments that are being tested in trials, but these are conducted under strict guidelines and under the supervision of health officials.
- Do not click on links or download files from emails, text messages or websites – even if they look familiar. These links may install malware on your device or attempt to steal your personal information.
- Do not share your personal, financial or health information in response to an unsolicited call, email or text message. Government and financial institutions will never reach out to you unexpectedly and ask for this information.
- Do your homework with charities. If you receive a fundraising call or email, research the organization to determine if it is legitimate.
- Avoid any transaction or donation that requires payment be made in prepaid debit cards or gift cards. These types of payments are much more difficult to trace and therefore a preferred method of payment for scammers
- Ignore phone calls or emails from people you don’t know offering investment opportunities.
When it comes to protecting your finances and financial information, it’s always best to reach out to your banker or our customer service department with questions or concerns. To get in touch, contact us at 800.497.8168 Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. MST.