ARIZONA — There’s a strong chance your parents or grandparents have already gotten a call or two trying to scare them into forking over their money.
See below for tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself and your relatives.
The “grandparent scam,” for example, tries to trick elderly residents into believing their grandchild or another loved one has been thrown in jail, kidnapped or faces some other immediate peril that requires an immediate wire transfer of money or even an iTunes gift card. Clever con artists use sophisticated technology that includes recordings of the supposedly ransomed grandchild’s voice, making the calls seem frighteningly real.
In another version of the scam, someone pretends to be the loved one — accounting for the change in voice by claiming a broken nose.
The scammers were convincing enough to steal $42 million from their victims over a recent 15-month period, according to a report to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is looking into scams against some of the nation’s most vulnerable. And $42 million is just a conservative estimate of actual losses in the grandparent scam.
“That’s outrageous, isn’t it?” said Kathy Stokes, the director of AARP’s Fraud Prevention Program. “They were probably asking for relatively small amounts of $500.”
In Arizona, the top scams targeting the elderly are:
- IRS Impersonation Scam
- Grandparent Scam
- Romance Scam
- Unsolicited Phone Calls
- “Can You Hear Me?” Scam
Residents of Arizona made 36 complaints to the Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline in 2017, but that figure does not represent reports that might have been made to state attorneys general offices and other watchdog groups.
The “grandparent scam” is one of several in the arsenal con artists use in a $37 billion annual industry that targets about 5 million older Americans each year, according to government data. Overall, the top 10 scams on elderly Americans are:
- IRS impersonation scams
- Robocalls / unsolicited phone calls
- Sweepstakes / Jamaican lottery scam
- “Can you hear me?” scam
- Grandparent scam
- Computer scam
- Romance scam
- Elder financial abuse
- Identity theft
- Government grant scam
‘Simple, Yet Very Devious’
Aging Americans are con artists’ targets of choice, partly because they’re seen by scammers as vulnerable, but primarily because of a perception “they’re sitting on piles of money,” said Randy Brauer of the National Council on Aging.
The “grandparent scam” is “simple, yet very devious” in that it “exploits that relationship a grandparent has with a grandchild,” Brauer said.
Several of his colleagues’ parents or grandparents have received these calls, Bauer said, and they were able to keep scammers on the line while verifying the safety and whereabouts of a younger relative supposedly in a bind.
It may seem like common sense that “if your kids is really in trouble, they’re not going to get an iTunes gift card to get out of jail,” Brauer said, but the ruse works when con artists press the point and pass gift cards off as the quickest way to get the child out of harm’s way or as an official form of government tender.
The terrified grandparent may think, “this is the new digital age; this is how I’m supposed to do this,” he said.
The Federal Trade Commission fielded almost 15,000 complaints about the scam in 2016, but the true number of older Americans preyed upon is unknown. The problem with reporting, Stokes says, is that victims risk heaping on more emotional abuse if they report it. That comes from decades of society treating elderly people reeled in by scammers as feeble and incompetent rather than as crime victims.
“For people who are relatively well-educated and think they’re savvy, it’s very demoralizing and shameful to admit they fell for something,” Stokes said. “We as a society blame victims of scams in a way we don’t blame other crime victims. We need to flip the narrative — ‘this happened to me and I’m empowered to tell my story so others won’t feel the same embarrassment.’ “
‘I Love You, Send Money’
Con artists bank on their victims’ silence due to embarrassment in a growing number of online romance scams, too. These scams are a booming business. The FBI took more than 14,545 complaints about romance and confidence scams in 2016 for a total dollar loss of nearly $220 million, up precipitously from two years prior, when about 5,885 complainants reported $86.7 million in losses.
“More and more Americans are generally more comfortable meeting online for platonic and romantic relationships, and these scams are following them, whether its apps or social media sending them friend requests or instant messages on Facebook saying, ” ‘I’m in love with you’ and then asking for money,” Stokes said.
In an AARP survey of U.S. adults age 18 and older, more than one in four said they or someone they knew had been the target of an online relationship scam. Specifically, the survey showed 4 percent had been victimized in an online relationship, and another 14 percent said they had been targeted.
Facebook has privacy settings, but in the beginning, “people went to Facebook in droves and never buttoned down their information, so it’s there for any scammer to exploit,” Stokes said.
This scam may “play on the loneliness of a person who lost a spouse,” she said, pointing to research that showed a common theme among people who reported being targeted had experienced some negative event, be it the loss of a spouse or job or a financial setback. Scammers get this information by scouring obituaries, online and offline documents, or “even just dumpster diving to get information on people,” Stokes said.
Scams that emotionally exploit older Americans are high on the radar of AARP and the National Council on Aging. Another one scares victims into thinking they won’t get their Social Security check.
‘IRS, IRS, IRS To, Boom, Social Security’
Con artists change tactics at a dizzying pace. Scammers stole $65 million from the elderly alone through the IRS impersonation scam over a three-year period ending in 2018, but the volume of calls dropped dramatically after a series of high-profile arrests, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
It’s as if con artists “turned over a page in the imposter script, and overnight, it went from IRS, IRS, IRS to, boom, Social Security,” Stokes said. “It just exploded.”
Crafty scammers spoof 202-area-code federal-government office numbers to make the calls look like the real thing, then use a scam to perpetuate a scam, telling their targets their Social Security account has been hacked, and they need the Social Security number to reinstate it before benefits are lost, Brauer of the National Council on Aging said.
“You worry about, ‘oh no, my account,'” he said.
Clever identity thieves pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors or government agencies and try to get their targets to give up sensitive information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords and other identifying information. There are some easy ways to spot a scam call, but the most important thing people can do is hang up immediately and then call back at the number on an account statement or in a phone book.
The Social Security scam now supercedes the IRS impersonation scam in frequency of calls, Stokes said.
In Arizona, victims had lost $1,341,016 to the IRS impersonation scam as of Jan. 31, 2018.
Mom And Dad, Can We Talk?
Stokes has a script for her own mother in the event she gets a call about the grandparent scam — or any one of several that try to emotionally rattle elderly Americans into giving up Social Security or Medicare account numbers by telling them their benefits are in peril.
“I’m having tea with Officer Brady,” Stokes instructed her mother to say. “I can’t talk right now.”
What Stokes has done is good advice for anyone looking after elderly relatives, though convincing her mom to admit she needed a plan wasn’t an easy sell. Stokes’s mom is armed with more knowledge about fraud than most aging Americans by virtue of her daughter’s job. “But sometimes she won’t listen to me,” Stokes said.
“Maybe your mom isn’t going to listen because she’s being obstinate — go to the Fraud Watch Network, get that tipsheet, print that out and tell them, ‘If you don’t believe me, read this,'” she advised. “Maybe that will help you break through.”
Though delicate and difficult, no one looking after an aging parent or grandparent should put off the conversation, Stokes said.
“Growing up, my mom and dad told me not to talk to strangers,” she said. “It’s time for us to remind our parents to be suspicious and engage their inner skeptic. If the government needs to take action right away, or it’s free, engage your inner skeptic.”
Above all, don’t “yell at your mom for falling for a scam,” said Stokes, who noted the AARP staff is “trained to listen [to calls about elder scams] with empathy and use empathetic words, to remind them they are the victim, this is a very sophisticated kind of scam and that it occurs across demographics.”
What you can do right now to protect yourself and your relatives:
- Be leery about anyone calling on the phone about any emergency. Get a phone number to call back and verify the whereabouts and safety of the person the call is about.
- Never give out Social Security, Medicare or financial account information over the phone.
- In general, avoid answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- Don’t confirm any personal information. Avoid saying “yes” to any question, as calls may be recorded and the answer can be used as consent for a purchase you didn’t request.
- Don’t press any numbers to stop calls. That will likely increase the number of robocalls you get, signaling to the scammers they’ve reached an active number.
- Change your voicemail message so it doesn’t reveal your name or other personal information. If you want a legitimate caller to know they’ve reached you, go ahead and put your phone number on the message.
- Don’t return calls that claim to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, your bank or a local police or sheriff’s department. If you think the message is legitimate, don’t return the number left on a voicemail. Instead, look up the legitimate phone number.
- Register both your landline and your cellphone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
- Report robocalls and other unwanted calls with the FTC, by phone at (888) 382-1222 or (877) 382-4357, or online.
- The FCC also has tips on how to stop unwanted and illegal robocalls.
Reported and written by Beth Dalbey, Patch national staff
- Parents are exploiting their children on YouTube for fame and easy money
- Women fighting for your right to have a hot flush in the office: Falling asleep in front of the CEO, panic attacks and going blank mid speech - millions are too scared to admit they struggle with the menopause at work
- Porn star Stormy Daniels slams her ex-attorney Michael Avenatti for his 'fraudulent behavior' and says the jury found 'his true character' after he was found guilty of trying to extort $25M from Nike
- Latinos will make their voices heard in Democratic race over the next four weeks
- Fifty years of the pill
- My mum only had a few months to live. So we rented a van and took a road trip
- Shopping on Amazon, ordering food online & video chatting: What life looks like in a Coronavirus quarantine
- ‘Tamales for Tío Bernie’: Sanders’ outreach to Latino voters pays off
- How to Spot a Catfish on Valentine's Day: What Is a Catfish? What Red Flags to Look For
- Hasan Minhaj Took a Job No One Wanted
- Cyber crooks take aim at their next big target: eSports tournaments and players
- Syrian conflict enters ninth year, spawning a generation of children who've never known peace
- One Direction: 'It's not a question of burnout: we enjoy it' – exclusive interview
- 'We have to kill Tutsis wherever they are'
- 16 DDoS attacks take place every 60 seconds, rates reach 622 Gbps
- Don Jr.: The one thing Bloomberg can't buy is personality
- Google denies claims that free school Chromebooks are illegally collecting student data
- SURVEY: Arizonans Oppose Removing Border Security
- '78 Brits, what the hell do they matter? They forgot us': Honeymooner who caught coronavirus on doomed Diamond Princess blasts botched government evacuation and tells how his wife is 'struggling' on ship
- Inside the Ongoing Search for Answers After News Anchor Jodi Huisentruit Vanished Without a Trace
Scammers Scare, Extort Millions From Aging Parents In Arizona have 2094 words, post on patch.com at April 4, 2019. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.