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  • Patricia Faust

The Increased Vulnerability of Seniors to Frauds, and Scams During COVID



Just when you think we have seen the worst of the worst during the pandemic, the alert about scams and frauds against older people is being sent out as a priority. Coronavirus provides a better opportunity to target older people who may be isolated due to social distancing. Isolation is creating an additional problem with this group. Because the opportunity to socialize with others has been cut off, many of these seniors are experiencing cognitive decline. They are extremely vulnerable to COVID-related phone or internet scams.

The COVID Scams Targeting Older Adults

At-Home Test Kits

The telephone is like an open door for scammers to enter into the lives of older adults. They are taking advantage of the vulnerability of seniors when they call or text about offering ‘coronavirus test kits in an effort to capture their credit card or banking information. Some goes as far as posing as a government agent to have them ‘verify’ their Medicare ID or Social Security number. Scammers may even ask for their home address in order to drop off the product they are supposedly selling them.

Bogus COVID-19- Related Products and Services

This category is limited only by the imagination of the scammer. Many phone and text scams are falsely advertising products, such as fake drugs, vaccines and devices that claim to prevent or cure COVID-19. Some create a sense of urgency to order products due to shortages or to stock up and purchase products at much higher prices. Other scammers take a different approach and offer services, such as, in-home HVAC cleaning or mosquito abatement, that falsely claim to protect people from contracting the COVID virus. Then there are the fake gift card emails being sent to older adults to offer ‘assistance’ during the crisis, or ‘reward’ people for following public health guidelines.

Impersonating a Government Agency

This is insidious. Scammers pose as a representative of the Social Security Administration and contact older recipients to inform them that their benefits will be suspended or decreased due to COVID-19 unless they provide personal information or payment.

The federal government Does Not randomly call an individual – ever – if they need information.

Insurance Scams

Several scams are offering low-cost health and life insurance, often together with At-Home COVID test kits or other products that are being presented as ‘free gifts’.


Stimulus-Related Scams

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is aware of several scams related to stimulus payments and loans that are being offered as part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19. These scams ask consumers to provide bank account information so funds can be ‘released’, or loan applications approved.

Charity Scams

Charity scams prey on the good nature of many older adults by aiming to collect money for bogus COVID-19 relief charities. Real charities will not ask for personal information such as Social Security number, date of birth, or bank account. Be alert to any organizations asking for donations of cash or by wire transfer. Visit an organization’s website to determine their validity.

What Should You Do if a Senior is a Victim of a COVID-19 Scam?

If your senior loved one receives a suspicious text, call, or email related to COVID-19, or if you think they might be a victim of a COVID-19 hoax, file a complaint with the FCC immediately and contact local law enforcement.

If your loved was indeed a victim of a COVID-19 scam, they might be embarrassed to tell you or report the incident. Encourage them to be honest about what happened. This will help you and the authorities take steps to minimize potential damage and prevent fraud from occurring.

References:

Griffith, D. (June 3, 2020). New scams target older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://epgn.com/2020/06/03/new-scams-target-older-adults-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Visiting Angels. 6 Coronavirus scams and hoaxes targeting the elderly. Retrieved from https://www.visitingangels.com/knowledge-center/senior-health-and-well-being/6-coronavirus-scams-and-hoaxes-targeting-the-elderly/498

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