Elder fraud scams we need to watch out for in 2023

The FBIs Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recorded fraud losses of $3.1 billion reported to them in 2022 by victims over the age of 60.  This was an 84 percent increase in fraud losses by the same demographic in 2021.  Elder fraud is not going away, and this type of success for criminals can only tempt them to send out a bigger net. A great way to help mitigate these losses and help prepare the entire family to better deflect these scams is through education and the sharing of best practices.

Hollywood has taught us that family always looks out for family.  So, as we anxiously wait to watch the next action extravaganza expelling the importance of family, let’s look at some active scams that could, without your vigilant monitoring and keen attention, leave you, your parents, or your grandparents furious in 2023.

  1. Tech support scams

With ever-updating new technology and devices, come new and numerous opportunities for scammers to try and exploit new victims.  

We’ve all seen the odd pop-up ad when browsing online and gotten our fair share of spam calls. The tech support scam aims to use these modern annoyances to get your attention with the threat of personal technological doom.

How does it work?

Scammers use pop-up warning messages, fake tech support websites, and even calls impersonating well-known companies to warn you of non-existent device, network, or security problems. These messages will be created and distributed to your devices in an effort to acquire your personal or financial information to ultimately try to steal your money.

A typical fraudulent call may have the scammers claim to be computer technicians associated with a well-known company and that they have detected viruses, malware, or hacking attempts on your computer. They will pretend to be “tech support” and request remote access to your computer, so they can diagnose the problem.

You should not grant them this access unless you are certain that they are legitimate. 

If you do agree to give them access, you could be giving them access to sensitive information on your device or even the network it is connected to.  After looking around your computer and potentially infecting it with malicious software, the scammers will tell you that you have an urgent security problem and you need to pay them a sizable sum of money or sign up for a sometimes worthless warranty program to help remedy the issue. 

Another flavor of this same type of scam starts very similarly – with the potential victim (you or a loved one) being contacted by a criminal posing as a member of a company's technical or computer repair service.  This time, they want to let you know that you have a highly priced, soon-to-renew subscription coming up. To cancel the renewal and receive a refund, you will need to email them or call them at a specified number.

Don’t do this - again unless you are certain that they are credible.

If you do decide to try and contact them, they may attempt to obtain your personal and banking information under the guise that this will allow them to send the refund to you.  It may just give them what they need to help steal funds from you. Once they have your information, the scammers may even try a scheme to get money from you by faking a transaction that over-refunds your account. They will then point out this mistake and ask you to reimburse them the difference, oftentimes with gift cards.  The FTC recently called out a scam that follows this pattern using Geek Squad renewals as the hook.       

The FBI’s IC3 found losses to tech support fraud amounting to more than $806 million, in 2022, a 132% increase over 2021. 55 percent of these victims were over 60 years of age and experienced more than 73% of the losses.

When you or a family member is confronted with an urgent tech support message, especially one you may not fully understand, try to avoid immediate panic. Do research to find a legitimate contact number for the company and use it to call them to verify if there is a potential problem. Do not click on a link in the email message or call the number provided unless you are absolutely certain it is legitimate.  According to the FTC, an unexpected tech support call is almost always a scam, even if the number looks legitimate. If you receive such a call, you can hang up and call the company back at the number listed on their official website.

  1. Grandparent scams

Instead of being told by scammers that your computer or phone are in trouble, this scheme centers on making you or your relatives think that one of your loved ones is in trouble.

If you get a call from someone who sounds like a grandchild or relative asking you to wire or transfer money or send gift cards to help them out of trouble, it could be a scam. 

How it works

You get a call: “Grandma, I’m in trouble! I need money for bail.” Or some other kind of trouble (medical, car trouble, lawyer fees). They say it is urgent and you have to keep it a secret.

This sounds serious and we all know family looks out for family.  But, are you sure this is your granddaughter on the phone?

Unfortunately, the answer could likely be that the caller is not who they say they are. Remember, scammers are professionals at pretending to be someone they’re not and they can be convincing.  Seeing a post on social media about a vacation your family is going on, the names of those going, and any other over-sharing can give them just the kind of information they can use to make their story sound more real.

So, how do you not panic in this situation and immediately rush to send funds to help your family?  First, you should look at your caller id. If you don’t recognize the number, it is possible that this is a scam. Next, try and call or text the person that supposedly just called you and if you can’t get a hold of them, call another family member to try and get the real story.

Also, be mindful of calls supposedly from your family members saying that they just got a new number.  This type of call is sometimes a way the scammer will  try to set-up this type of scam.  If you get such a call, it is smart to try calling the old number to see who answers before replacing it in your contacts with the new number. If the call and change are legitimate, then no harm done. If not, this could be a tactic a scammer is using to make a future emergency call from your grandson or cousin look like it is calling from a legitimate number.

  1. Romance scams

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people, whether it is to start off the new year with companionship, to find a Valentine’s Day date, or someone to go apple picking with in the fall.

And, because there is some history of success and a modicum of trust in online dating, scammers see an opportunity to use these sites to meet potential victims.

How do they do that?

They create fake profiles to build online relationships and gain their potential victim’s affection, so that they can play off of it for financial gain.  Building this trust and confidence with a victim can take some time and throughout the scam the only contact they will have will be online or over the phone. The scammer may have a treasure trove of reasons they give for why they can’t meet in person, but they will spend time communicating with the victim as long as it takes to build enough trust to eventually convince them to send them money in the name of love.

Many people who’ve experienced romance scams report being contacted on dating apps. But you don’t have to be looking for love to be courted by a romance scammer. More than a third of people who said they lost money to an online romance scam in 2021 said it began on Facebook or Instagram.

So, beware of over-eager potential paramours who reach out to you and then suddenly have a financial, family, or health crisis that has them asking you for money. This should immediately make you suspicious and clue you in that you could have been communicating with a scammer. You would not be alone.

Losses due to this type of scam have steadily increased in recent years. In 2022 alone, people reported losing a heart-breaking $1.3 billion to romance scams.

In fact, reports to the FTC about romance scams have been increasing for every age group over the past 5 years, with people 70 and older reporting the highest individual median losses in 2021 at $9,000.  But everyone in the family needs to be mindful of this scam. For people aged 18 to 29, the FTC found a 10x increase from 2017 to 2021 in romance scam reports. 

They say love is blind.  But, you cannot afford to be blind to the telltale signs of these still highly-effective cons.  It is important to stay educated on the latest scams, share this information with your loved ones, and always ask for help if you are rattled or confused. 

If you are interested in more help to better protect you and your family’s information and identities, lightening the burden of monitoring all of your information and accounts on your own, or how you can potentially even add your parents and grandparents to this type of monitoring, contact ID Watchdog at…

To learn more about phishing scams and how to better protect you and your family against phishing attacks, read Phishing Scams Have Evolved—Are You Prepared?

The information provided is intended as general guidance and is not intended to convey any tax, benefits, or legal advice. For information pertaining to your company and its specific facts and needs, please consult your own tax advisor or legal counsel. Links to sources may be to third party sites. We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.