On August 21, (The National Senior Citizens Day). The day gives the opportunity to show our gratitude for their dedication, achievements and services they provide throughout their lives; besides recognizing the achievements of the most adult representatives of our nation.
By 2020, Florida is expected to have a population exceeding 23.5 million with over 28 percent of that population being over the age of 60. Seniors comprise the state’s second largest economic sector contributing a $2.8 billion net tax benefit after all services are rendered. Florida’s seniors donate $3.5 billion to charities in addition to donating their time and talents in their communities.
Unfortunately, senior citizens are also a prime target for con artists perpetrating any number of scams. Seniors are generally hesitant to report when they have been a victim of fraud, and many times the cases are difficult to prosecute. However, informed seniors-like any other consumer-can protect themselves from scammers, and that is where the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) comes in.
FDACS is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection, and information. The department provides a variety of resources to protect Florida consumers and ensures they have the information they need to make informed decisions. In that spirit, here is a brief recap of some of the top scams targeting seniors.
- The IRS Phone Scam — Scammers claim that an individual owes back taxes and penalties, and say that unless the person pays immediately, they could be arrested or have their home foreclosed on.
- Sweepstakes Scam — Fraudsters call or email victims and tell them they’ve won the lottery and just need to pay a fee to collect their winnings.
- Social Security Scam — Scammers either phone or email consumers, claiming to represent the Social Security Administration and ask consumers for personal information, such as their Social Security number, date of birth or bank account information.
- Tech Support Scam — Fraudsters pretend they work for a well-known tech company like Microsoft or Dell. They claim the consumer’s computer has been infected with a virus, and then try to get remote access to the computer, as well as access to the victim’s credit card or bank account information so that they can bill them for fixing the alleged problem.
- Grandparent Scam — Fraudsters pretend to be the victim’s grandchild and claim they need money to get themselves out of an emergency, such as being arrested. Or they may claim to have kidnapped the senior’s grandchild and ask for ransom.
- Medicare Scam — Scammers pose as Medicare representatives to get seniors to give them their personal information or pay for unnecessary services.
- Romance Scam — Fraudsters contact seniors through an online dating site or other kinds of social media. Once they’ve struck up a relationship, they ask for money, perhaps to pay for a trip to visit the senior or to cover some kind of emergency, like medical costs.
Seniors are encouraged to get educated on what frauds are out there and to remain vigilant at all times. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself and avoid being scammed.
- Know who you’re dealing with. Independently verify any information you are provided.
- Pay the safest way. You can dispute credit card charges if you never get the goods or services.
- Guard your personal information.
- Stay safe online. Don’t send sensitive information unless you are sure the website is secure.
- Be cautious about unsolicited emails.
- Resist pressure. Legitimate companies and charities will be happy to give you time to talk with trusted advisors and make an informed decision.
- Don’t believe promises of easy money.
- Fully understand the offer.
- Check your bank accounts and credit reports regularly.
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) for Spanish speakers or visit us online at FloridaConsumerHelp.com