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BBB Tip of the Week: Scam risk decreases with age

Grandparents Day was Sep., and it has been shown recently that older consumers have the lowest risk of being scammed. However, that does not mean scammers are not targeting this demographic. Older scam victims reported higher median losses, likely because of the different types of scams aimed at seniors and their access to greater financial resources.

Scams targeting seniors

Grandparent or emergency scams. This trick begins with a phone call from someone posing as your grandchild, niece or nephew, or other young family member. Scammers research victims using social media and often know family names, travel plans and other details. The phony grandchild will claim to be out of town and in an emergency situation – anything from a car accident to wrongful arrest. The scam artist will urge you to send money as soon as possible and to not tell their parents.

Investment cons. These cons often target seniors because of their greater financial resources. They frequently prey on long-standing group connections – such as through a religious organization or an ethnic group – where members trust each other. Con artists are masters of persuasion, and they often learn the weaknesses of their targets and tailor their pitches accordingly.

Romance scams: Seniors who are widowed or divorced are frequent targets. These prey on lonely people looking to connect with someone and can often take months to develop to the point where money changes hands. The emotional harm to the victim can be even more painful than the monetary loss. Con artists create compelling backstories and full-fledged identities, then trick you into falling for someone who doesn’t exist.

Tips to avoid these cons

Get another perspective. All the above cons work because the target feels ashamed – or pressured – and keeps the scam a secret. If you’ve been targeted by something that seems suspicious, seek an outside opinion.

Do your research. If something seems strange – a new romance asking for money or an out-of-the blue emergency – search for it online. Scammers often reuse images or stories. BBB.org/Scam Tracker is a good place to read about others’ experiences.

Know what your family members are sharing online. Seniors can be susceptible to emergency scams and other ploys because they aren’t familiar with the information about themselves and their family that is available online.

Resist the urge to act immediately. Con artists almost always will pressure you into acting before you’ve had time to think it over. Don’t cave to the pressure.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, help others avoid falling victim by reporting what happened on the BBB Scam Tracker.


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