Seniors: Reduce your risk of fraud

Seniors: Reduce your risk of fraud
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By Carol Downs

We all like to think we would never fall for a sweepstakes scam, identity theft or any other type of fraudulent offer.

However, research shows seniors are at particular risk of being scammed since they tend to be trusting and may feel they have good instincts when it comes to making decisions. Those instincts and trust may put you or a loved one at risk when it comes to receiving unsolicited calls, many from outside the country.

Carol Downs

These calls come in many forms. A senior may be told a grandchild is in jail, and they need to send money for bail. They could be told the IRS needs them to send money or they will be put in jail. They may be told they have just won the lottery and in order to collect the money, they need to send money to the caller. Or, a scammer may pose as a senior’s bank or health insurance company, asking for a Social Security number or other private information.

Many scammers play on the fact that some seniors feel lonely and isolated. Having a friend at the other end of the phone can seem like a real connection. Once scammers ingratiate themselves with a senior and start requesting money, the senior may be convinced it is their responsibility to help. After all, that’s what friends are for.

With an increasing reliance on computers, identity theft is easier to achieve. This may include medical identity theft as well as financial theft. Online romance scams may be particularly painful when one realizes they have become the victim of an imposter who is really in search of money, not a relationship.

With all of this, what’s a person to do?

One thing is register for Senior Law Day 2019, an annual event co-sponsored by Senior Services of Alexandria and Alexandria Bar Association. The event takes place June 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the T.C. Williams High School auditorium at 3330 King St. Hear from experts on how to identify a possible scam and what to do if you think you or a loved one has been scammed. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. AARP’s “Shred Truck” will be onsite. Register online at or by calling 703-836-4414 ext. 110.

For additional questions about a possible scam, call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360 or go to for the latest fraud news and advice.

The writer is Virginia state president of AARP.