It's all too easy to fall victim to financial scams these days, and if there's one group that's particularly vulnerable, it's seniors.
Typically, what will happen is that an older person will get a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be a government agency representative. From there, that senior will be instructed to provide personal information -- details like a bank account or Social Security number -- to facilitate identify theft. Or, that senior will be instructed to wire money to an outside account to avoid dire consequences, such as arrest for tax evasion or the suspension of his or her Social Security benefits.
Often, these scam calls come in robocall format, where a computerized dialer is used to deliver a pre-recorded message. But it seems as though the U.S. Department of Justice has finally grown tired of seeing seniors fall victim to the aforementioned traps, because it recently took legal action by filing temporary restraining orders against some telecom companies that have facilitated these robocalls. And that's a step in the right direction, especially since one very common scam associated with these calls relates to Social Security fraud.
Don't be a victim
Despite the fact that the Department of Justice is seemingly cracking down on robocalls, the reality is that seniors can still easily become scam victims. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently put out a warning that criminals are trying a new tactic in an effort to steal from the elderly -- they're faking documents and emailing them to older targets. The problem is that these documents will often contain what looks like the SSA's letterhead, thereby giving recipients the impression that the correspondence in question is, in fact, legitimate.
So how can you spot a scam from the real deal? One thing you should know is that SSA will never call or email you threatening to suspend your benefits. If you get a call asking that you wire money or pay a fine to prevent that from happening, hang up, and then report it.
You should be similarly suspicious if the SSA calls and offers to increase your benefits in exchange for you paying a one-time fee. Once you start collecting benefits, the only increase you're entitled to is your annual cost-of-living adjustments, so don't believe anyone who claims a higher benefit is suddenly coming your way.
Generally speaking, the SSA will contact you by mail, but if you receive correspondence you're unsure about, you can always call the agency yourself to check. As long as you initiate that call, you're safe. Also, it's not a bad idea to create an account on the SSA's website so you can monitor activity related to your benefits.
Seniors lose countless amounts of money each year to financial scams. While steps are being taken to prevent that from happening, it's important to be vigilant and err on the side of not sharing personal information or paying money when you're contacted out of the blue.