Scams Targeting Seniors

Older adults are often prime targets for financial scams, typically because fraudsters believe they have more money in the bank — no mortgage, no student loans, a lifetime of working and saving.

If you or a family member is being victimized, don’t hesitate to call the police, says Deputy Chief of Police Bruce Mason of the Bloomingdale Police Department in Chicago’s western suburbs. This can be especially helpful if you worry your family member won’t listen to your concerns. 

“Sometimes it’s better to hear from the police, so if you think one of your elderly relatives might be targeted, getting us involved earlier is better,” Mason says. 

He notes that many scams targeting older people involve sending money overseas. “Some of these investigations stop at the borders of the country; we just don’t have that reach. So if we can get in there sooner and prevent something from happening or getting worse, we look at that as a little bit of a win,” Mason says. 

The Grandchild Scam 

If someone calls you informing you that your grandchild is in jail, and the person claims to be acting as their lawyer, hang up. If you don’t, the person will tell you not to tell your grandchild’s parents about this and then request that you wire money to pay the lawyer. 

Instead of panicking, stop and think: Is your grandchild likely to go to jail? And why wouldn’t you get the parents involved? Your best bet is to disconnect and call your child, grandchild, or the police. Do not wire money. Once you’ve done that, the money is virtually impossible to recoup. 

The Gift Card Scam

Someone calls to ask you to go to a store and purchase gift cards. They’ll then instruct you to call back and read off the numbers on the gift cards. 

After the caller has the numbers, they can sell or use the gift cards. There is really no way to recover the money you paid or the value of the gift cards. If a caller asks you to buy gift cards or suggests that you pay for a bill or an item with a gift card, don’t do it. 

The Tax Scam 

Tax scams happen year-round, but especially often in the months leading up to April 15. Even if your caller ID says the IRS is calling, don’t believe it. The Internal Revenue Service rarely calls people. According to the IRS website: “The first contact with the IRS will usually be through mail, not over the phone. Legitimate IRS employees will not threaten to revoke licenses or have a person deported. These are scare tactics.”

If someone calls and asks you to pay your tax bill via gift cards or wire, hang up. If you believe you have been contacted by someone impersonating an IRS agent or trying to defraud you, contact the IRS at 800-366-4484 to report the incident.