Staying Safe From Online Financial Scams

June 21, 2024

As online fraud continues to rise, here’s how seniors can keep themselves — and their money — from falling prey to the scammers.


How Scammers Seek to Sucker Seniors
While the methods scammers use in their attempts to defraud seniors are legion, a few types make up the majority of more than 100,000 cases reported in 2023. Investment Scams – In terms of monetary loss, investment scams wreak the greatest financial havoc. In 2023 alone, this category of scams resulted in over $1.2 billion in losses for seniors. Common investment scams in pump-and-dump schemes, unscrupulous advisory services, high-fee variable annuities, charitable gift annuity schemes, and “no risk/high reward” investments. What it all boils down to, however, is that unless you have an existing (and preferably longstanding) relationship with whoever is offering you financial advice or products, just say no.


Tech Support Scams – While investment scams netted fraudsters the most money, tech support scams were the most commonly attempted scams in 2023 with nearly 18,000 complaints filed. A typical tech support scam involves a fraudster calling an individual and informing them of some needed upgrade or repair to their computer — a service the fraudster will provide if granted remote access to the victim’s system. Once inside, personal data — including financial records and accounts — are quickly located, stolen, and abused. When it comes to your computer, phone, or other device, never trust a stranger who contacts you out the blue with offers of “help.” Because all they’re going to do is help themselves to your info or your money. Romance Scams – What once seemed like little more than a plot point for “Days of Our Lives” has become all too common in today’s world of online matchmaking. In this scam, fraudsters pose as would-be romantic interests — stringing their victims along until they either send them actual money or reveal enough personal details for theft to ensue. Don’t trust a would-be paramour you’re never met, and don’t trust them with sensitive information even if you have. After all, true love doesn’t need to know your checking account number.


Non-Delivery Scams – A non-delivery scam is when you don’t get what you pay for. Such scams can be found on places such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace where individual fraudsters can trick numerous people into buying nonexistent goods before the sites kick them off. Alternatively, entire fraudulent shopping sites are easy to launch and difficult to detect. Non-delivery scams are particularly popular during the holidays when people are in a rush to buy gifts and find great deals. If the prices seem too good to be true, don’t risk your money hoping they really are.


Cryptocurrency Scams – Cryptocurrency remains a relatively unregulated field. As such, it’s ripe for and rife with fraudulent activity. Similar to investment scams, crypto hustlers aim to separate seniors from their savings with promises of big returns if they purchase cryptocurrency. Direct phone calls and emails are still a popular way of luring in victims, but advertising on social media platforms has also become a popular method of attracting “investors.” Chances are you’ve had an investment advisor for years, and this is no time to trust someone else’s advice.


Personal Data Breaches – Like John Houseman’s evil twin, many scammers still make their ill-gotten gains the old-fashioned way — through the mass theft of login credentials and other personal data. This data is the kind stored by retailers, credit card companies, banks, and any other firm offering a digital means of interaction. While seniors are not specifically the target of these breeches, they did suffer just over $100 million in losses in 2023 due to their data being compromised. While you can’t protect yourself from these breaches, you can help mitigate their effects by not using the same password for multiple sites and using a credit monitoring or fraud detection service. Chances are your bank or credit card issuers offers these very services.


How Seniors Can Protect Their Assets
Staying several steps ahead of would-be scammers requires a combination of vigilance, preparation, and teamwork. While there is no set-it-and-forget-it solution to safeguarding your hard-earned money, there are a few relatively simple things you can do to help ensure your retirement remains as relaxing and rewarding as you always dreamed it would be. Don’t Go It Alone – Let’s be honest. When it comes to your financial security, there’s too much at stake to shoulder the burden alone. Even the sharpest, savviest of seniors can’t spot every red flag or new trick of the (criminal) trade. Now is the time to bring trusted family members on board.


Prepare Legally – Consider setting up a durable power of attorney (POA) to give a trusted person the authority to manage your finances if needed. A durable POA contains specific language that allows your designated person to manage your finances when you are unable to do so yourself. By letting someone you trust take over financial decision-making when the time comes, you’ll protect your assets from those who prey on the cognitively impaired.


Stay Informed – You’ve already taken the first step in staying informed just by reading this article. Make it a habit to stay updated about the latest fraud tactics so you’re never caught by surprise. Many resources exist, but a good one to keep bookmarked is the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center.


Monitor Your Finances – Regularly check your financial statements and be wary of unusual transactions. Again, allowing a trusted family member to help monitor your accounts can ease your burden while making sure nothing is overlooked.


Act Promptly – If you notice any suspicious activity or receive unusual contacts, report any suspected fraud to the authorities and seek assistance from family members. The rise in online elder fraud highlights the importance of staying informed and proactive. It’s crucial for seniors and their families to discuss how to protect themselves today and have a plan for doing so tomorrow. These types of scams and tips for avoiding them listed above are not an exhaustive list. For more information, visit the FBI’s Scams and Safety page and consider signing up for alerts from the Federal Trade Commission. Remember, protecting yourself from financial exploitation isn’t just about knowing the risks — it’s also about taking simple, practical steps to keep your finances and your future safe.


At Summit Vista, our goal is to do deliver a peak retirement experience to all who call us home. Part of that is helping our residents remain alert to the con artists and scams that seek to deprive them of their just reward — life at the top. If you’d like to discover what makes Utah’s first Life Plan Community so special, we invite you to contact our team online or call us at 801-758-3138 to schedule a tour or to learn more about life at Summit Vista.