In 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received reports from more than 92,000 people aged 60 and older who lost an estimated $1.7 billion due to fraud.
Below is a list of things to look out for to avoid falling victim to a scam.
- Don't pay for services that have not been performed, like housecleaning, landscaping, construction or care giving. Legitimate businesses might ask for a deposit to secure your place in line, but these businesses can also be seen in the community, have business licenses, can provide you with a contract/receipt or show proof of insurance.
- Don't give anyone remote access to your computer. If you are concerned about a virus or malware, take your computer into a reputable shop.
- Be careful about what you share on social media. Scammers can gather information from your online activity and use it to convince you they can be trusted.
- Don't click on links or open attachments that are sent to you in texts or emails asking you to verify your password, financial or personal information. These links often take you to scammer. Call the company directly or go to their website directly to make sure your account is OK.
- The IRS, Social Security and other government agencies will never call you asking for money.
- Check your credit report yearly—all three credit bureaus. If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, you may contact all three bureaus and request a freeze on your credit reports.
- Monitor your checking account and credit card accounts regularly and report unknown charges to your bank.
- If it sounds too good to be true it usually is. Being on the phone with someone you don't know, for a long time, is a red flag. They are trying to gain your trust so they can pressure you.
- People presenting as contractors for PG&E are a real issue. Don't give your fingerprint, social security number or account numbers to anyone who comes to your door.
- Don't send money to cover the cost of taxes or delivery fees for a expensive items you have supposedly "won."
- Don't send gift cards or bitcoin to anyone asking for this as payment.
- Do not deposit a check from someone you don't know and then withdraw all or partial funds to send back to them.
- If you receive a check and the language on the check doesn't make sense—the grammar is confusing, it has misspelled words, capital letters missing (or are there and shouldn't be) —this is likely a fake check.
- If someone says they have been kidnapped and need a ransom paid to be released, call law enforcement.
- Don't fall in love/send money to someone you have never met in person.
- Never give any account numbers for your bank, Amazon, etc., or your social security number to anyone over the phone. Legit businesses will not ask for this.
- Be wary of new best friends needing money quickly.
- As artificial intelligence (AI) technology increases, there are calls now happening using robots that sound like your loved ones. Consider having a family password that can be used in various situations.
- Secure your passwords. Never give them out to anyone. No agency will ask for your sign-in password.
- Adult Services programs like IHSS and the IHSS Care Provider Registry will NEVER send you links to download an application to receive a care provider list.
- When in doubt, don't do it.
More resources and to report a scam:
Where to report:
- FBI’s Internet Complaint Center: IC3.gov
- Appropriate to report any scam involving the internet.
- You can file on behalf of the victim.
- TIP: Print a copy of your records at the end!
- Your bank or credit union
TIP: When looking up where to report, be careful to no click suggested links and report to the financial institution directly.
- Federal Trade Commission
TIP: The FTC may send you to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for issues related to debt collections, credit card companies, credit reporting and banking.
- Local Law Enforcement
TIP: Ask for a copy of your report. The report provides a paper trail to document the fraud and maybe be helpful in disputing charges, for possible future legal action and/or assisting with tax issues.
- Adult Protective Services
TIP: This is not for financial recovery, but if the victim wants to be connected to other social supports or referrals.
Where to File Report – Scam Specific:
- Identity Theft: identitytheft.gov
- Non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center provides direction assistance by visiting idtheftcenter.org or calling 888-400-5530
- Mail Fraud or Theft: uspis.gov/report
- Investor Fraud: sec.gov/oiea/Complaint.html
- Medicare Fraud: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or medicare.gov/basics/reporting-medicare-fraud-and-abuse
- Better Business Bureau: bbb.org/file-a-complaint.
- Working with older adults: consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/educator-tools/resources-for-older-adults
- Money Smart for Older Adults: fdic.gov/resources/consumers/money-smart/teach-money-smart/money-smart-for-older-adults.html