Protecting Yourself Against Scammers In Retirement

Protecting Yourself Against Scammers In Retirement

Everyone on the internet is susceptible to scams daily as cybercriminals and their efforts get more clever and advanced. However, none are more vulnerable than older adults and those in their retirement years. According to the FBI, elder fraud is an increasing issue, with more than $3 billion in losses annually. 

As you age, you become more of a target to cybercriminals because they think they can take advantage of you more easily. For this reason, it’s crucial that you take extra measures in your older years to avoid becoming prey to these scams. 

Whether you are a retiree yourself or a loved one looking to keep an aging parent financially safe, the tips in this article can help. 

Common Scams That Target Older Adults & Retirees and How to Avoid Them

Below are some of the most common scams targeted at older adults.

1. Mobile Phone Scams

Everyone gets spam calls, many of which are scammers trying to trick you into giving out your private information, like your social security number or bank and credit card details. Unfortunately, there tends to be an uptick in mobile scam calls as you get older. 

This can include fake tax calls, calls about your retirement savings accounts, fake insurance calls, and general calls that make it seem like there is something urgent that you need to address. 

2. Malware Attacks

If you seem to be getting a lot more spam emails these days, it’s likely because scammers are trying to get you to fall prey to a malware attack. Similar to phone scams, email scams also tend to increase as you get older, and unfortunately, many of these emails have gotten a lot better at appearing official. 

If you click on a link or download button in the email, this will download a virus onto your computer. The key is to not click on any links in emails that come from individuals you don’t recognize.

As an added level of protection, you should also install antivirus software on your computer. That way, if you open anything up by accident from a scammer, you will be protected. 

3. Password Theft

By the time you reach retirement, you’ve likely accumulated more passwords and logins than you can remember. You may decide to start using passwords that are much simpler and easier to remember or even write them down where someone can easily find them. But this is a sure way to become the victim of password theft. 

Luckily, companies are working on secure password management programs and passwordless authentication systems to make password security easier. But in the meantime, it’s important that you continue keeping your passwords safe. This means using longer, more complicated password phrases, not reusing passwords from the past, and avoiding leaving your passwords out in the open where anyone can access them. 

If you do need to write your passwords down to remember them, you must keep them in a safe place that only you can access to deter thieves. 

4. Social Security Fraud

Social Security fraud is incredibly common among older adults, especially if you are retired and already receiving funds from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Typically, with these kinds of scams, someone will call or email you posing as an SSA representative, and they will ask for you to confirm your SSA account details. 

These are some of the scariest scams because they can seem legitimate. However, if the caller threatens to end your Social Security benefits, this is a sign that you are being scammed. 

5. The Grandparent Scam

Another common scam that occurs in retirement years is what’s known as the “Grandparent Scam.” For this scam, you will usually receive a call, text, or email from someone claiming to be your grandchild who needs money. 

The scenario is usually that they are stranded or have been arrested and need you to send them money immediately to help. Some of these scams can be very convincing, especially since they play upon your emotions. 

What to Do if You Are Contacted By a Scammer

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer, do not give out any of your personal information, including your social security number, bank account, or credit card information. Instead, simply hang up; after all, you won’t get in trouble for doing so. If it is a legitimate call, the person or business trying to reach you will likely send you an email or a physical letter in the mail with an official way to contact them. 

Scammers tend to use blocked numbers so you can’t actually tell who is calling. If the number calling you doesn’t show a name, or if they avoid giving you any official information about who they are when they pick up, it is likely a scam. This is especially important if the scammer claims they are a friend or relative in need of help — if the number does not match the contact information you have for your loved one, it is likely a scam. 

If you are unsure if you are being contacted by a scammer via phone, you can also look the number up on the Internet. If you cannot find an official business website linked to the phone number, it is likely a scam. This is especially important for Social Security scams. If you aren’t sure if it’s a legitimate call or not, immediately hang up, find the SSA’s official phone number and call them. They will be able to let you know if the person who was just contacting you is legitimate or a scammer. 

For email scams, the easiest way to check if the email is legitimate or not is to hover over the sender’s name to see the email address. If it is from an official business or person, you will be able to tell by the email address. Scammers tend to use email addresses that are made up of random letters and numbers. 

Wrapping Up: What to Do if You Fall Victim to a Scam

Following the tips above can help keep you and your finances safe in retirement, but if something does still happen, there are resources that can help. The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has an Elder Fraud Hotline for these exact purposes. You can visit their website or call them at 1-833-372-8311 for assistance. 

You can also report any suspected scams on the website

Just remember to always err on the side of caution. Scams are getting more clever and advanced, meaning they are harder to detect. If you are ever in doubt, get help from a friend or family member or contact the business directly that the suspected scam is from.

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Article Author Details

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.