HILL COUNTY, Texas (FOX 44) – The Hill County Sheriff’s Office is raising awareness about a number of scams targeting its elderly population. It has released information to help those in the community to not become victims.
The Sheriff’s Office says that elder fraud describes millions of elderly Americans falling victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme. These include romance, lottery and sweepstakes scams just to name a few.
Criminals will gain their targets’ trust and could communicate with them directly online, over the phone, through the mail or indirectly through the television and radio. Scammers often keep these schemes going because of the prospect of significant financial gain.
The Sheriff’s Office says that seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home and have good credit – which is attractive to scammers.
Seniors could also be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed at having been scammed. They might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs. When an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.
The Sheriff’s Office says that with the elderly population growing and seniors racking up more than $3 billion in losses annually, elder fraud has remained a growing problem.
Below are some common elder fraud schemes:
Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
Grandparent scam: A type of confidence scam where criminals pose as a relative, usually a child or grandchild, claiming to be in immediate financial need.
Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.
The Sheriff’s Office says that here are some ways to protect yourself:
- Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
- Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
- Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
- Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
- Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
- Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
- Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.