Senior Fraud: How Older Americans are Targeted and What Caregivers Can Do About It
Research conducted by the AARP in 2020 estimated that more than 40 million U.S. adults are caregiving for a family or friend aged 50 or older.
Sadly, older populations are often attractive targets for fraudsters. They may be more trusting and have financial savings – and are also the age group least likely to report fraud crimes. Caregivers’ concerns are mounting that elder loved ones seem more vulnerable than most to the explosion of cyberattacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of Senior Fraud Awareness Day in May, here is important information for caregivers.
Types of Fraud Targeting Seniors
Identity scams and fraud happen across all age groups, but different types of attack methods are effective with different age groups.
A report by the Federal Trade Commission looked at fraud losses by age and fraud type. The top categories of fraud where adults over the age of 60 reported losses were:
- Online shopping
- Tech support scams
- Business imposter scams
- Government imposter scams
- Romance scams
- Prize, sweepstakes, or lottery scam
- Family or friend imposter scam
Though younger consumers are significantly more likely to be the victims of online shopping fraud, this category accelerated dramatically for older demographics in 2020.
When it comes to the total dollars lost by fraud type, romance scams, government imposter scams, and prize/sweepstakes/lottery scams have the most devasting effects on older Americans.
- Older adults reported aggregate losses of nearly $84 million on romance scams in 2019, making it the category with the highest aggregate losses for those aged 60 and older.
- Government imposter scams ranked next at $61 million in losses.
- While the prize, sweepstakes, and lottery category ranked third at $51 million, this category saw the highest fraud losses for adults aged 80 and older.
Cyber Fraud on the Rise for Seniors
As increasing numbers of seniors go online, so too go the rates at which they are the victims of cyber fraud. Unlike younger digital natives, older Americans are not as cognizant of cybercrime and may lack the experience to identity threats.
Cybercrime Magazine identified three common types of cyber fraud against seniors.
- Online and telephone phishing scams. Cybercriminals will often devise a scheme that creates a sense of urgency, such as a fake emergency, government notice, or prize winnings that coax targeted seniors into revealing personally identifiable information (PII) that can be used to carry out fraud.
- Confidence/romance fraud. As more seniors discover the internet as a tool for connecting with new people or past acquaintances, bad actors look for opportunities to deceive and defraud. They may cultivate a sense of trust – or even impersonate someone trusted – to persuade an elderly victim to give up sensitive information or provide them with money or gifts.
- Identity theft. Though identity theft affects people of all ages, seniors tend to be particularly susceptible to medical identity theft and Medicare fraud, IRS and Social Security fraud, estate identity theft, and military identity theft.
How Caregivers Can Help Protect Seniors
Though completely preventing fraud is nearly impossible, caregivers can still do a lot to help protect the seniors in their lives. By being an engaged and vigilant presence, caregivers can have a big positive impact with a few simple steps.
- Initiate a conversation about scams and the common ways older consumers are targeted. Ask your loved one to contact you if they receive any phone calls or emails that just don’t seem right.
- Encourage seniors to get details in writing before making any type of financial transaction. Then, have them share that information with you or another trusted adviser before taking any action.
- If your loved one uses a computer, make sure their software and security systems are up-to-date.
- Consider purchasing comprehensive identity protection for seniors in your life that includes credit monitoring, continuous dark web monitoring for exposed credentials, advanced fraud monitoring, smart alerts, and best-in-class resolution services.
Senior Fraud Resolution Is Now Part of Sontiq’s Employer Benefits Packages
The added responsibilities of looking after an older loved one can be very stressful. Not only does senior fraud cost millions of dollars every year, but it also costs caregivers hours of precious time to deal with the fallout.
With so many people caring for senior family members, at Sontiq, we recently enhanced our identity security benefits packages to extend resolution services beyond the standard household to include parents (in-law) and grandparents (in-law). Employers who offer Sontiq identity security as part of a progressive employee benefits package will reduce stress, enhance productivity, and provide caregiver employees peace of mind.
From social engineering to ransomware to financial exploitation, untangling the web of cybercrime can be a complicated and time-consuming matter. If you discover that a senior family member has been victimized, having the support of a Certified Fraud Resolution Specialist is truly priceless. As a further added benefit, employees with a family plan receive expense reimbursement for their senior family members.
If this isn’t yet available in your workplace, talk to your benefits manager about the value of identity security as an employee benefit!