Scams and Fraud Against Older Adults

Web Page Banners.jpgScams and fraud schemes are designed to trick you into sending money or providing your personal information to someone who will attempt to use it to steal your identity, clean out your bank account, run up your credit card bills, or commit other crimes in your name. Unfortunately, older adults are often targeted because they are perceived to be more likely to have a nest egg and less familiar with technology. Scammers will use various means to contact you, including the internet, e-mail, texts, social media, other messaging sites, regular mail, in person, and by telephone. In addition, the types of scams are widespread and change all the time to take advantage of new technology, current events, and more. 

Artificial Intelligence Voice Scams

Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice scams are an emerging threat where cyber criminals use AI generated voices to impersonate people you may know and trust. They do this for the purpose of manipulating victims into revealing personal and sensitive information or sending funds. These scams exploit the human tendency to trust that the voice on the other end of the phone line is authentic. Scammers use these familiar voices to create ficticious events such as health emergencies, legal troubles or other exigent circumstances to capture your attention and elicit your response. Watch this video from CBS Mornings to learn how the scam works: ​​​​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2w2z8P4dlI​

Tax Scam Season is Here

​​Tax season is here, and so is the annual tax scam phishing season. We all must work hard to keep our sensitive information out of the hands of cybercriminals. Please remember the IRS will never initiate contact with you by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. 

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  Don't become a victim of any scheme that offers instant wealth or exemption from your obligation as a United States citizen to file tax returns and/or pay taxes. Some of these schemes can literally cost you your life savings. Others can result in your prosecution and imprisonment if you knowingly participate in them. To learn more about how to spot scammers pretending to be IRS officials, watch this video from the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4nCy6Xs6R8​


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Warning Signs of Scams and Fraud

The warning signs of scams and fraud can come in many different ways; however, the most common red flags to spot a potential scammer are when you receive a phone call from a contact you don’t know out of the blue, a person you’ve never met in person asks for money, and a person asks you to pay for something or to give him/her money through unusual payment methods (e.g., gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrencies). 

Here are additional signs that indicate you might be dealing with a scammer. They include contact from someone:​
  • Calling or emailing you, claiming to be from the government and asking you to pay money.
  • Asking you to pay money or taxes upfront to receive a prize or a gift.
  • Asking for access to your money-such as your ATM cards, bank accounts, credit cards, or investment accounts.
  • Pressuring you to "act now" or else the deal will go away OR someone who seems to be trying hard to give you a "great deal" without time to answer your questions.  ​

Reporting Suspected Scams and Fraud

Maryland law requires health practitioners, police officers, and human service workers to report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults, including financial exploitation, to the local department of social services. A vulnerable adult is anyone over 18 years of age who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for their daily needs. Social workers, employees of licensed health care facilities, and employees of financial institutions have additional, and in some cases mandatory, reporting requirements as well.  

Any concerned person who has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has been subjected to a scam or fraud may report it, and often the report can be anonymous. If you suspect that an older adult is being, or is about to be a victim of a scam or fraud, there are a number of resourceful contacts to call for help, including, but not limited to the following:

If the older adult in question lost money or other possessions in a scam, report it to your local police department​ too.

When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—include as many of the following details as possible:

  1. Names of the scammer and/or company
  2. Dates of contact
  3. Methods of communication​
  4. Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  5. Methods of payment
  6. Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  7. Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given

Keeping Loved Ones Safe

When it comes to scams and fraud the two biggest deterrents are for older adults to stay up to date with their banking information so they can notice and report fraudulent charges, and they are not afraid to say no to solicitors or telemarketers. 

Use these tips below to protect against potential scams and fraud​:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity. If a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.

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The Maryland General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Audits operates a toll-free fraud hotline to receive allegations of fraud and/or abuse of State government resources. Information reported to the hotline in the past has helped to eliminate certain fraudulent activities and protect State resources.

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