At least 20% of older adults have been the victim of some fraudulent scheme.- Melissa B (02:38 - 02:44)
Scams cost America’s seniors nearly $3 billion dollars a year according to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging. In the past, these scams include themes like impersonating the IRS, Sweepstakes Scams, Grandparent Scams and/ or Romance Scams. With the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors (and people of all ages) need to be able to recognize these scammers and stop them in their tracks.
In this episode, find out:
- What type of scams should older adults be aware of?
- How can they identify red flags and protect themselves?
With us is Lisa O’Neill, Associate Director of Research and Education at the University of Arizona, has a doctorate in Behavioral Health, and a 2019-2020 Health and Aging Policy Fellow.
Part One of COVID Scams and the Older Adult
Scams always happen, and they change depending on the situation. Generally, we have scams like the lottery scam, bank scam, even home repair scams. Scams happens almost every day. But during this pandemic, scammers have found more ways to trick people, most notably older adults.
Many older adults are more isolated than
normal, which puts them at higher risk.
- Lisa O'Neill (01:27 - 01:35)
What are the common scams during the COVID pandemic that target older adults?
Scammers may go door-to-door or call you, offering:
- grocery shopping services. They will take your money upfront, and then never return.
- Others will offer to sanitize your home to keep you safe from the virus.
- They will pretend to be from the Census Bureau or from an organization where they would ask for your financial information or
- Ask for cash donations for a charitable organization.
- You might also receive an email claiming that they have a cure or vaccination for the coronavirus and that you need to pay them to be included in the list.
- In some cases, they will lure you to invest in companies that supposedly can provide a cure for the virus.
These fraudsters focus on older adults who are home alone and who might be feeling lonely. Remember that these people are experts and that they are good at what they do. They feed off of fear and the uncertainty the pandemic has brought to all of us. It's easy to fall into their trap, and that's why you have to be extremely careful.
Part Two of COVID Scams and the Older Adult
But how are you going to protect yourself?
- You have to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
- Do not trust anyone that you haven’t met in person. And don’t trust a stranger who knocks on your door.
- Be suspicious of anyone asking you for money. Never make any payment or purchase any type of gift card to give to them.
- Do not provide personal information like your name, birthdate, social security card, bank information, or your Medicare number.
- For emails, please take note if there are spelling errors or if there are weird fonts and typos. These are signs that the email is not from a legitimate person or company.
If you are expecting someone from a service provider, do not forget to ask for their information and company ID when they arrive to perform services for you.
If you don’t know the person at the door, it’s perfectly fine not to answer the door. It’s also ok to hang up on a phone call if you sense any red flags. Remember that there is no cure for the virus as of the moment, so if someone promises you something like that, turn it down right away.
These scam artists are very good at what they do. They are experts.- Lisa O'Neill (05:49 - 05:52)
What to do if you suspect fraud or are a victim of fraud
If something seems legitimate but you are unsure, always talk to somebody you already know and trust about it. You can also reach out to the US State Senate Special Committee for Aging’s Fraud hotline (1-855-303-9470) if you need more information and read the 2019 Fraud Book.
It's far better than deciding on the spot. Scammers are good at putting people in the hot seat so that you will take action right then and there.
We understand that some older adults feel embarrassed after being scammed. But you have to realize that this happens and that fraudsters are experts. We are more vulnerable, given the global health situation. There's no shame in falling victim to it because it happens to so many people. You are not alone, and you are not the only one.
If you wish to report an incident, then you can email the National Center for Disaster Fraud at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
How To Connect:
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer.
I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (’11) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities.
Find out more about her work at HERE.