Older adults have always been a primary target for scams in part because scammers know they have money and in part because they are particularly vulnerable. Scammers have become especially active during the COVID-19 pandemic, employing age-old scams in new and malicious ways to exploit the fears and uncertainty of the moment. With social distancing and self-quarantines keeping many older adults from interacting with their support systems, it has become open season on seniors.
Many of the scams are not new, but they have been updated to fit the crisis.
Fake COVID-19 treatments
Preying on “high risk” seniors preoccupied with avoiding the virus, scammers are using robocalls to pitch fake treatments or vaccines.
Scammers pose as government contact tracers through fake emails or text messages to steal sensitive information.
A popular scam following natural disasters and, in this case, a deadly health event, scammers pose as charities to take advantage of older adults looking for ways to help those impacted by the crisis.
Social Security or Medicare scam
A scammer poses as a Social Security or Medicare staffer on the phone pretending there is a problem with your account and coerces you into providing sensitive information.
How to Avoid Any Scam
The list of scams targeting older adults is too numerous to list here. But there are simple rules of thumb to follow to prevent becoming a victim of any scam.
- Hang up on any robocall – you will not be missing anything important.
- Hang up on or delete any email from anyone claiming to represent a government agency. Government agencies never contact individuals by phone or email.
- Never, ever provide sensitive information, especially your Social Security number, over the phone or through email. The exception may be on a call that you initiated and can verify that the organization is legitimate.
- Never, ever provide your credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Never provide account information on a website unless you see HTTPS:\\ at the beginning of the address bar.
- Do not click on any link in an email unless you are absolutely certain of the sender’s identity.
Make sure your computer’s security system is always updated.