It's Summer, and Scammers Are Calling Seniors

mature man sitting in chair with mobile phone
Seniors are among the most common victims of con artists. According to New York State AARP Director Beth Finkel, older Americans had $2.9 billion stolen from them in the most recent year for which data is available, and the America's demographic shift toward an older population is only likely worsen the problem.

To protect seniors, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently issued an alert about five common phone scams, which typically spike in the summer. Criminals everywhere are using these and similar tricks to bilk you, your parents or grandparents and other older people you love.

Preying on Emotion, Hope and Respect of Authority

All five scams appeal to your emotions. One trick involves the caller impersonating your grandchild and asking you to wire money to help with a made-up financial crisis, like a car breakdown, medical expenses or even a night in jail. The nastiest part is that, thanks to social media, con artists can easily learn the names of your grandkids and details about their whereabouts, making the scenario sound realistic.

Another scam preys on your financial hopes. Scammers will tell you that you've won a lottery and ask you to pay fees and taxes associated with your "winnings." The criminals walk away with your cash and bank-account information that they'll use to take more money.

The most popular scams appeal to your respect of authority. Criminals pretend to be court officers, Internal Revenue agents or utility-company representatives and demand payment for overdue balances, fines, missing jury duty or other infractions. Unsuspecting seniors may accede to those demands by sending money via a prepaid debit card or by money-transfer services.

What You Can and Can't Trust

With these scams, caller ID won't necessarily save you, as con artists have learned how to trick the service by spoofing their originating phone number. As a result, you might see "Internal Revenue Service" or the name of your local utility in your caller ID box, even if it's a fraudulent call.

A better defense is to never to give out information on a call that you receive. If you believe that the phone call is legitimate, get a name, end the call, look up the real customer service number yourself, and call back whoever the caller claimed to be to ensure that you were talking to a legitimate representative. If the person or company denies having called you, then you'll know that you avoided becoming the victim of a phone scam.

Being vigilant about your personal information has never been more important, yet many senior citizens don't know about protections that younger people take for granted. Make sure you, your parents, grandparents and other older people know about these tactics.

You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google+.

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Herb & Judy

Years ago, a company called here constantly asking for donations, never paying attention to my requests to take our number off their list.
Needless to say, they called again. So, I went along with their tirade. Then, I started talking about all kinds of BS about how it was in the old days and how we all used to go hungry just so we could afford to help people less fortunate than ourselves. That my brother got six months in jail for stealing beans from somebody's garden. How we used to steal green corn and and get sick. Also, I told them we just had our water cut off because we bought cigaretts and booze instead of paying our bills. On and on ~ I could tell the telemarketer was getting anxious, so I screamed "OMG, here comes my daughter and I haven't taken my meds, yet!" After that, they never called again. Cruel but effective!

July 07 2014 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Someone asked why the elderly, supposedly wise and experienced, fall for this kind of fraud. it's called HOPE. My mother-in-law lost 40K to such scammers before we found out what was going on. She wanted desperately to believe she had won 5 million dollars "tax free" to leave to her children. One of them is disabled, and it would have allowed her to feel this adult child would always be very well cared for. Or the elderly on fixed incomes who are poor believe it's a chance to better their lot for their remaining years. HOPE. Don't underestimate it's power. The ugly little parasites who perpetrate scams understand this very well.

June 29 2014 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember years ago when we were all getting these sales calls trying to sell siding for our homes. My father was getting tired of the repeated calls since they had just built a new home and didn't need siding. So one time this lady called to give her sales pitch, which he listened to for a while and then started to ask questions. If she said they had a certain color such as blue, he would want to know exactly what shade of blue and then ask more questions about it. Then he would ask them to repeat the colors they offered, this could go on for some time and in the end after asking many, many dumb questions he would inquire if they had black colored siding! Of course they didn't and when the lady would tell my father that they didn't have black, he would say, "Oh thats too bad, because that is the color I really want. Bye!" And then hang up. They finally got the message and quit calling my father!

June 29 2014 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know all about the scamming of phone numbers for caller ID. I get phone calls from a name in my small town and a local phone number. I assumed it was someone looking for my son or grandson so I answered it, nothing but one of those "credit card" calls wanting to lower my interest rate. I keep telling them that I don't have any credit cards but......

I also have a friend who was scammed a couple years ago by a local person. This person came to her door and offered to black top her drive, saying that they had just done a job in the area and had paving material left over! she fell for the scam to the tune of about $2000 for a very thin layer of black top which the next year had grass and weeds growing through it the entire length of the drive! funny thing was that the person who came to the door was not even the man who had the company. The "boss" apparently was sitting in the truck on the road and when she said the first price was too high the salesman asked the "boss" for less. Of course he agreed to the lower price! She used to have her drive plowed in the winter but now can't let anyone plow because she is worried that it will tear up the thin layer of black top. Of course when she got this put in she bragged to everyone about the great deal that she got......NOT! I for one keep asking when she is going to start mowing her drive, she claims that her son is going to spray the drive with a weed killer but so far nothing! Then we found out that this same man had been driving all around the area looking for "suckers" to take the black top offer!

June 29 2014 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I got a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Department of Consumer Affairs, U.S. Treasury department. They said they had a warrant for my arrest for not filing my taxes and wanted the name of my attorney so they could send him/her a copy of the warrant. I told them my attorney's name was Eric Holder. They wanted his address, etc. I said, "don't you know Mr. Holder?" They said they had never heard of him. I told them he was the United States Attorney General. They hung up. I notified the FBI and FTC.

June 29 2014 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought the elderly were supposed to be the oldest, wisest, and most-experienced among it it that they are so easily scammed by obvious fraudsters?

June 27 2014 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stop putting your life out on social media...they learn who your friends are, what your doing, events in your life, that they can use to make themselves more convincing.....I get a kick out of people bragging on social media .."Can't wait three more days and I'll be in Aruba" ...very smart
time to rob your place...or set up the phoney phone call to Grandma that you need money because your in the hospital.

June 26 2014 at 11:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cvanac8550's comment

You are so right. I know someone and it seems everytime she lets a fart she has to publicize it. Amazing. It is like they have no life.

June 26 2014 at 11:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

ovomit n Hillary Benghazi are the biggest scam ever n they are both "DEAD BROKE"~~HA HA HA HA HA all you dumb white Americans just open up a can of dog food for dinner tonight cause you were hoodwinked ....TWICE. !!!!!

June 26 2014 at 9:09 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to korrectionelecshun's comment

Careful kid. Old people are getting scammed. And Lord knows you're a fossil.

June 26 2014 at 9:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to h.ecdag's comment

did you start takin your ss yet cause I don't think your going get to see ovomit get his lawsuit slapped on him, then impeached in 2014. !! by the time I start ss it wont be around anymore,,ovomit will have already depleted it for his illegal immigrants he let 'BREAK" into America.

June 26 2014 at 9:51 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down

Social Security? I won't be eligible for that for a few decades. Hopefully by the time I start collecting you'll be decomposing.

June 26 2014 at 9:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

What rock did you come from under?

June 26 2014 at 11:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I just tell them to kiss my butt. And be careful with the 202 area code representing the IRS

June 26 2014 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sacibee's comment

I love the do not call list.....I still get all these calls, but I do also report them all the time! I do know that a local "Dish" satellite company that kept calling got a large f ine for calling people on that list. Now I just wish we could limit the political calls. They should be limited to calling each number only twice in one week! One day I got 4 calls from the same number which I knew from the day before was a political call! Uncalled for! But then it was the politicians who made the 'so called law' to limit the calls to numbers on the do not call list! Too bad it doesn't work!

June 29 2014 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I waskidnapped by aliens!~ for some reason they want 10,000 in unmarked 20s, please hurry. Drop the money at the corner of 3rd and Wilke!!!!

June 26 2014 at 8:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply