Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Swindlers That Prey On The Elderly

Many of us that are middle aged and approaching retirement are pretty savvy concerning the danger of fraud.

We are naturally cautious when we come across questionable offers, but sometimes our elderly relatives or friends that are not equipped to detect phony schemes can fall prey! 

Some elderly persons have cognitive decline which can hamper your ability to realize when something is not quite right. Many are also lonely and isolated, which can make them susceptible to being exploited. 

Here are some scams to let your loved ones know about:

Tech Support Scam: Many older people are not tech savvy, and this leaves them open to the tech support scams. A person calls and claims your computer has a virus they can fix if you hand over remote access. They will then ask for payment or steal personal information. Have them make sure any support comes from the contact information that comes from their devices.

Pretending To Be Family: This next one tears at my heartstrings as I have grandchildren. Con artists will extract details about your grandchild from the internet. (We know sometimes our kids give out way too much info on social media!) They then call in the middle of the night pretending to be your grandchild who needs fast cash to get out of a jam whether a car accident, medical emergency, or even to get out of jail. They urge you to avoid calling their parents and blame a distorted voice on a “bad connection”. Being woken up and disoriented with worry pulls elderly ones easily into a trap. Advise them to hang up immediately and call another relative who will know if it is legit!

Romance/Catfishing: The romance angle is again another fraud that preys upon lonely, isolated elderly. The scammer sends you a private message saying they remember you from elementary school and comment how great you look. These people will spend weeks, even months building a relationship before they ask for money, usually for so-called medical expenses or to travel to see you. People have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to this con. 

Social Security: The Social Security fraud has a person claiming to be a SS staffer tries to glean personal information or money. They may tell you there is a problem with your account like someone using your SS number or say there is a threat to your benefits. Do not trust caller ID as that can be manipulated. Call 800-772-1213 to speak with a Social Security representative. 

Fast Money: The Lottery or Sweepstakes scam will have a person contacted by mail, phone, email or online that you have won, or have the potential to win a jackpot. But of course, there is a catch. You must pay a fee or cover “taxes.” They may want a direct transfer, prepaid debit card or money order. Do not fall for this even if the name of the contest or lottery is legitimate. This was the third most reported fraud in 2018. 

Contractor Scheme: The contractor scheme is very prevalent all over the country. They will come door to door offering services especially around natural disasters. They will offer low prices on everything from resurfacing your driveway to trimming your trees. There is a catch, they want a large amount of money upfront and then disappear. Ask friends and relatives for referrals for contractors they have used and were happy with. Legitimate contractors do not work door to door. 

Be safe out there!

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago