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Financial scams targeted at seniors are quite prevalent.  Criminals typically target the elderly because they are seen as easy targets with financial stability.  Additionally, financial scams are difficult to prosecute and many often go unreported.  However, these scams can be tremendously devastating to seniors and leave them in financial ruin.  Below are some of the scams commonly targeting seniors and tips on how to avoid Internet scams:        

The Extortion/Intimidation Scam

The scam involves persistent harassing phone calls and emails notifying the target that a loan is overdue and has to be paid in full.  Typically the fraudster has your personal details but will provide little information regarding the loan.  The threat of legal action, personal violence or arrest is used if you refuse to pay.   

How to avoid victimization:

  • Be extra careful when dealing with individuals who do not live in the country
  • Conduct research to ensure the legitimacy of the claim before carrying out any type of business
  • Report threatening and harassing behavior to the authorities

Government Impersonation Scam

This involves scammers posing as government entities or officials, calling or sending emails in a bid to get you to send money.  These scoundrels get a hold of your personal information and they threaten you with a lawsuit or an arrest if you do not pay a made-up debt.  

How to avoid victimization:

  • Government agencies do not send unsolicited emails.  Additionally, they are not permitted to request money transfers.  
  • Do not fill out forms attached to email messages requesting personal information.
  • Do not reply, clink on links or open attachments. They could contain malicious codes that infect the device.
  • You can send IRS emails directly to phishing@irs.gov.  Forward other emails to the impersonated organization and to spam@uce.gov.  
  • Enlist you number on the Do Not Call registry.  While this will not prevent calls from scammers, it will make you skeptical of out-of-the-blue calls.  Typically, legitimate sales people respect the Do Not Call list; however, scammers do not. 
  • Delete the email.

Auto Fraud Scam

There are different versions of this scam; however, it typically involves someone posting a grossly under-priced car on a legitimate website.  The swindler claims the car must be sold immediately but he or she refuses to meet in person and no inspection is allowed.  For the deal to seem legitimate, the fraudster will instruct you to wire partial or full payment to a third-party agent.  You will then be required to fax the payment receipt as proof of payment.  The vehicle will not be delivered but your money will be gone.   

How to avoid victimization:

  • Only make purchases from a reputable source.  Carry out research to determine the legitimacy of the company or individual.
  • Get a telephone number and a physical address instead of just a post office box.  Call the number to see whether it is working and actually associated with the business. 
  • Do not buy from sellers who refuse to provide proper auto and personal details.

The Romance Scam

This scam is particularly reprehensible and involves individuals making contact with someone seeking love or companionship.  Contact is made via a social network, website or chat room.  It typically moves slowly as intimacy is built and the target becomes emotionally attached.  The criminal then presents a believable scenario like an emergency or family tragedy and asks for money.  

How to avoid victimization:

  • Restrict the amount and type of personal information you give out via social media websites.
  • If contacted online by a romantic stranger, be on the lookout for the following red flags. If you recognize any of them, this person could possibly be a fraudster.
  1. They immediately want your Yahoo address or any other messenger service you use.  
  2. They claim to live in the United States; however, they are currently working or visiting family elsewhere.  
  3. They claim you are destined to be together and the romance is sanctioned by fate.
  4. Their grammar and spelling is horrific and inconsistent with whom they profess to be.
  5. They send messages at times unusual for your time zone.
  6. They disappear on the weekend 

These tips on how to avoid Internet scams can prevent you from being victimized by fraudsters.