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Scammers targeting the elderly, study shows

Learn the tricks scammers use to steal your money

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Scammers are busy this holiday season and they often have their eyes on the elderly.

A 2012 national survey by Stanford Center on Longevity found Americans 65 and older are more likely to be targeted by fraudsters and more likely to lose money once targeted.

"The ubiquity of fraud solicitations, coupled with the inability of many people to recognize the red flags of fraud, place a large number of Americans at risk of losing money to scams with older Americans at greatest risk," the study said.

DIRTY TRICKS OF A FINANCIAL CON: HOW TO SPOT THE RED FLAGS

That is why the Call Christina team is here, to help you spot the red flags.

Earlier this month the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a warning for seniors.

The CFPB said to beware of scams targeting older people during the holidays.

"During the holidays, the common scam known as the imposter or "grandparent scam" might be decorated with a special plea, a story of a relative in trouble who desperately needs money to fix a car or get out of jail – and home for the holidays," Jenefer Duane of the CFPB said. "The ruse known as the IRS scam takes on a vicious new twist with a grinch on the phone threatening an elder with being arrested and spending the holidays in jail for unpaid taxes or a fake debt. And then there is the predictable increase in false or imposter charities, which sound identical to the real ones. The pitch is wrapped in sympathy inducing requests for year-end, tax-deductible holiday donations."

Duane said scammers may scour the internet and social media sites looking for a special connection to your life.

IRS IMPOSTERS:

Some of the top calls into the Call Christina consumer protection hotline are viewers reporting con artists who tried to take them for their money by pretending to the IRS.

The Federal Trade Commission says IRS imposter scams are on the rise.

Remember the IRS won't call you or email you. They won't ask you to pay via a prepaid debit card or with a money transfer.

Click here to view FTC scam alert.

The Anatomy of a Swindle:

Tobie Stanger, a senior editor at Consumer Reports, breaks down the Anatomy of a Swindle:

1. Creating the list. Scammers collect seniors' names from sources that include obituaries mentioning surviving relatives and legitimate mailing lists of people who’ve bought products widely sold to seniors. They also get names from list makers that operate bogus mass sweepstakes mailing centers and cater to scammers.

2. Testing the waters. A mass mailing, sometimes personalized to each victim, is sent. It may offer an attractive product or service, or mention that the victim is eligible for a lottery or sweepstakes. The mail-in return forms ask for personal information such as phone numbers and whether the victim has a credit card. They may also ask for a small fee—say, $20.

3. Homing in on "suckers." The swindle may end there with the receipt of respondents' fees. Or the scammers may create a more refined "sweepstakes list" or "sucker list" of respondents. They may use those lists themselves or sell them to others. Listed names are worth up to $6 each; the most valuable are older and alone, and often have a rural address.

4. Calling the "winners." A scammer, often from abroad, using a phone system that masks the call's origin, contacts a listed individual to announce that she has won a big prize. The catch: She has to pay fees or taxes up front—and keep the win a secret. The caller then directs the victim to wire or mail the funds to a third party's bank account.

5. Moving the money. The third party sometimes flies the cash to Jamaica to deliver directly to the scammer or has another person, a "mule," do it. Each participant in the swindle takes a cut, often 10 percent.

6. Extracting more. After a victim sends money once, a scammer will call more often—several times a day—for money or just to talk. To develop a relationship, he’ll probe the victim about her pets, hobbies, grandchildren and other personal information. He may send her flowers or presents. The closer he gets to the victim, the more data he can extract, including Social Security and bank-account numbers. That information can be used to drain bank accounts and open credit cards in the victim's name.

7. Bearing down. When victims say they can't afford more, scammers suggest sources: reverse mortgages, cashed-in life-insurance policies, sales of property, cash advances on credit cards. A victim who balks will be told that her winnings are threatened; she may even be threatened with physical injury to herself or her family.

8. Creating an accomplice. Some victims are told that to redeem their winnings, they must accept checks from others and move funds to a third party. They unwittingly assist money launderers; some even become money-­laundering conspirators themselves.

Lies, Scecrets, and Scams: How to Prevent Elder Abuse:

9. Blocking escape. Scammers have been known to track down victims who have changed their phone numbers. Posing as a concerned child, a scammer directs a local plumber to visit his mother for a service call and to then phone from the house. The mother may deny that she needs service, but if she lets the plumber make his call from her phone, the scammer can use caller ID to reconnect.

10. Donning white hats. Scammers sometimes pretend they're FBI agents, intent on helping victims recoup their lost funds. That service, of course, requires additional payments.

Here are a few tips provided by the CFPB:

  • Before offering your help to someone who claims to be a grandchild (or other relative/friend), be sure to telephone your family to verify that the emergency or urgent request is genuine.
  • Beware of a caller who insists on secrecy. Never allow anyone to discourage you from seeking information, verification, support and counsel from family members, friends or trusted advisers prior to making any financial transaction.
  • Take the following precautions to make sure your charitable donations benefit the people and organizations you want to help. If a caller claims to be from an established organization such as a hospital, charity, or law enforcement agency, look up the number of the organization independently and verify the claim before sending money.
  • Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.
  • Then, call the charity directly. Ask if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The organization’s development staff should be able to help you.
  • If you have received a letter from the IRS stating that you owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 for information.
  • The IRS will neither call to demand immediate payment, nor call without first mailing a bill. And, the IRS does not require you to use a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card nor will they threaten you with arrest for not paying.

SURF SAFE:

Like to shop online? First, know this: Florida has the highest per capita rate of identity theft in the nation, which means Floridians are vulnerable to cyber criminals looking to poach their online information.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is reminding you to protect your personal information.

According to the department's executive director, Jesse Panuccio, "We are reminding consumers to carefully monitor their personal and financial information to ensure they are protected from cybercrimes and cyberfraud."

Protect yourself from identity theft and fraud this holiday season with these helpful tips:

Guard your online and hard copy information:

•             Protect yourself by clearing saved login and password information, and be sure to regularly change your passwords.

•             Shred and properly dispose of sensitive documents that contain your personal information.

•             Monitor your bank accounts for suspicious purchases and check your credit report for changes.

•             Take advantage of free credit reports. You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit monitoring bureaus. Contact the bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion directly.