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Common Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them

“Congratulations! You’ve won $1,000 dollars for being the hundredth website visitor.”

As seniors spend their golden years travelling and pursing hobbies, scammers are busy creating deceitful schemes to trick people out of their money. Just recently a 93-year-old kupuna was scammed out of $148,000, one of many victims in what the AARP says is a billion dollar a year business.

Scams can come in all forms, from a total stranger asking you to invest in their project to a neighbor overcharging you for yardwork. Here are three of the most common scams that seniors in Hawaii face and tips for avoiding them.

Scam #1: Loved one urgently needs money 

You receive an urgent phone call from your distressed grandchild who needs financial help because they are in trouble. In this instance, scammers will impersonate your grandchild in attempts to get you to wire money. Be wary of phone conversations that begin with “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” More often than not, it’s a scammer’s ploy to get you to list off a name or two of who it might be, so they can pretend to be that person.

How to avoid: If you are concerned about the legitimacy of a phone call, hang up and call that relative’s phone directly using contact information you know is accurate. Never just hit redial as it will most likely lead back to the scammer. Also, get in touch with other relatives who can confirm the accuracy of the claim.

Scam #2: You won a sweepstakes or lottery

A representative from a big-name company like Publishers Clearing House calls or emails you to let you know you’ve won something—usually a grand prize in a contest you didn’t enter. Sometimes scammers will even send you a fake check that appears authentic. They may tell you that in order to claim your prize, you must send them money for taxes and processing fees.

How to avoid: Ignore emails that claim to be from legitimate companies but use a free email account like Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo. If you receive a check in the mail—don’t try to cash it right away. If it’s a fraud, you could be held liable. Always call the company that sent you the check and take it to a bank to verify its authenticity.

Scam #3: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is collecting money 

A person saying they are a representative from the Internal Revenue Service calls to let you know you owe money in back taxes and if you don’t pay, you will be arrested.

How to avoid: If you encounter this type of phone call, you are one of the 1.87 million Americans targeted by scammers claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service. Hang up immediately! The IRS will NEVER call a taxpayer demanding immediate payment, and no payment to the IRS is accepted over the phone via credit or debit card. They will also never threaten to send law enforcement to your door if no specific form of payment is made.

Despite living in paradise, no one is safe from the threat of scammers, especially seniors. Talk to your friends and loved ones about common scams and how to avoid them.

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