Unfortunately, with the rise of technology, reports of retirees being targeted for financial scams to rob them of their wealth or identities have increased. Living in Northern Michigan isn’t a safeguard against this type of crime.
Because scammers have gained an understanding of how to trick and manipulate this generation, it has become quite common for them to gain access to bank accounts, personal information, and, in some cases, assets.
Learning about the common risks and schemes can mean the difference between you or your loved ones remaining protected or playing right into the tricks of scam artists.
Common Scams That Target Retirees and Seniors
Health Insurance Scams
As a citizen who is older than 65, you qualify for Medicare benefits, which can make you a fairly easy target for health insurance-related scams. Scammers can carry out fraudulent behavior over the phone or even at the door utilizing insurance provider information, which they can acquire pretty easily.
A few common situations to be aware of include being told that you need a new Medicare card, and to receive one, you’d need to provide your Social Security information. Another con is unsolicited discussions about new supplemental policies.
1. Investment Scams
Many retirees are interested in expanding their wealth, especially if they have a legacy to one day leave behind, which can make this group easy prey for faux “investment opportunities” that may not exist at all. Whether it’s offering their finances to a fictional business or buying a vacation property that isn’t real, investment scams have the potential to deplete retirees of their savings in a flash.
2. Internet and Email Scams
Because so many retirees and those of older generations aren’t always accustomed to the ever-changing details involved with the internet, these schemes have become incredibly common. Phishing scams, viral pop-ups, and attempts to steal one’s identity are a few examples of something you may encounter. It’s important to keep in mind that no bank or other business will ask for personal information via email. If you are ever concerned or unsure, visit their company website directly or contact them for additional confirmation.
With fraudulent emails, you may encounter misspelled words and poor grammar, an odd return email address, or an urgent request. If you’re unsure of an email sender, don’t click on links they share. These may capture your personal information and make you more vulnerable.
3. Charity Scams
We all know that natural disasters are often unpredictable and happen regularly. With these occurrences, scammers find opportunities to target those who have been affected or want to offer their support. These situations can occur over the phone, through social media, email, or in person. Always donate to reputable charities and learn more using the IRS’s tax-exempt organization search.
With the current COVID situation, scammers are out in force. If you are contacted about donating to an organization in support of COVID relief, be sure to ask for detailed information about the charity. Request information such as their EIN, website, and 990 (tax form).
4. Help/Grandparent Scams
This scenario often consists of someone calling or emailing the victim, either pretending to be a family member in trouble or acting as a person of authority representing the relative. They then ask for money to be wired to cover certain fees, which you may be all too happy to provide as someone who is emotionally involved. To keep the situation under wraps, you may then be asked not to tell anyone and soon after will never hear from the “relative” again, leaving you out the money you gave them.
There are a couple of simple things you can do to help safeguard yourself against a grandparent scam. Start by making sure that your social media account settings are set to private. This makes it difficult for the would-be scammer to access information about your family that they may use to pose as a family member.
If someone contacts you requesting money and they claim to be a family member, you might also consider telling them you need to check with your bank and then call them back. If the person is requesting money in the form of a gift card, it is probably a scam. Collect personal information from them – phone number, address, driver’s license, and bank account. Do you best to verify the person is who they say they are before you send them any money.
Protecting Yourself and Others From Financial Scams
It’s crucial to protect yourself and those close to you from falling victim to financial scams that have become so frequent. Taking the time to address these details can help prevent you from encountering devastating theft.
- Be suspicious
- Ask questions and stay informed
- Never give out personal information to unknown sources
- Don’t make hasty decisions
- Invest carefully
It’s unfortunate, but scammers who often prey on the elderly generally rely on the assumption that retirees and older groups of people are unfamiliar with technology and that they are unaware of the many possibilities of having their personal information stolen.
If you ever feel suspicious of an email, phone call, or other forms of contact, don’t hesitate to go with your gut and do your research regarding the origins of the “company” or group you’re speaking with. Staying aware will ultimately help you safeguard your well-being.
Erickson Braund is the Founder and Chief Financial Officer at Black Walnut Wealth Management. He is a Certified Financial Planner®️ professional and a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor®️. Eric brings over 20 years of experience working with high net-worth individuals and families, helping them achieve their goals of protecting and growing their wealth for retirement and for generations to come. Because Eric is a CFP®️ professional, he adheres to high ethical standards and engages in at least 30 hours of approved continuing education in the financial industry each year.
Personal Note from Eric
For those of you who read last month's newsletter, you are probably on the edge of your seat, wondering if we ran the Corona Crush and who finished in what position within the family. Rest assured, the entire family ran this event, and even though Audrey and Max didn’t train for this run, they were able to still very handily out-pace their father (but not their mother who finished first!). Youthfulness has its perks!
I also decided to grow a beard for the first time. I managed to go for six weeks and then couldn’t stand it any longer (the grey hair didn’t help), so I shaved and boy it felt good. Even though I can’t beat the kids at running events, shaving my beard made me look so much younger!
This note is getting long, but please indulge me a bit for a proud dad moment. My daughter, Audrey, graduated from high school magna cum laude! She has also received a partial scholarship to Grand Valley and was accepted into their honors program. We are so very proud of her! So, how do you provide a graduation party in this current environment? Well, you have to be a little creative. We had a “Drive-by Graduation Party,” and just like it sounds, friends and family were able to drive by our home with horns honking and signs waving, to say congratulations to Audrey and talk with her for a bit from their car.