Scam Alert: Are You Susceptible to Fraud?

by Patty H. LePage

Everyone is susceptible to being scammed.  However, according to the FBI, being over the age of 50 makes you more likely to be the victim of fraud.  Most individuals over the age of 50 have a nest egg, own a home, and have more financial stability than younger counter parts.  This is a wonderful thing for your bank accounts, but it makes you a prime target for greedy scammers looking to steal from unsuspecting individuals.  

Women over the age of 60, living alone, are even more likely to be the target of scammers. Telephone scams, focused on trying to sell bogus products and services, are often targeted towards this demographic.  These telemarketing scams often include inexpensive vacations, health and beauty products and free prizes. Scammers focus their efforts on services that might be of interest to older adults, such as products to improve cognitive function, prevent cancer or improve physical well-being.  

Older adults are also less likely to report being the victim of fraud, which increases the risk. Some individuals never even realize they have been victimized; others are ashamed about being scammed so they fail to report the fraud, and others don’t know where to report the crime.  Even when choosing to report fraud, older adults can often be portrayed as unreliable witnesses. Scammers take advantage of time and hope individuals will not have enough recall to be able to testify against them in court.

There are several ways to protect yourself from being the victim of a scam.  

1. First and foremost, don’t worry about being rude. It is ok to hang up the phone when someone will not take no for an answer or to refuse to give out any personal information or details. 

2. Don’t ever buy any product or service over the phone, especially from an unknown company.  Any legitimate company will understand that you need more information before making a purchase.  

3. Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics meant to push you into buying something in-the-moment for fear of losing out on a deal; this is a common practice of scammers.  

4. Be wary of telemarketers claiming to be charities looking for donations. Scammers prey on the good intentions and desire to help others many of us have.  If you receive a call from a non-profit organization, ask for information to be sent to you in writing. Follow up with an organization like Charity Watch to ensure the organization is a legitimate charity.  

5. Never give out personal information over the phone, especially to someone who has called you (as opposed to someone you have called, such as a bank or insurance company). Never give out your credit card number, social security number, birth date or bank account numbers to unknown individuals. If the person says he is calling from your bank, doctors office, or other organization with whom have dealings, hang up and call them back at the number you have for them before providing any personal information.

Prevention is the best tool against fraud. By following the advice above, being aware of your rights and being cautious with your information, you can protect yourself from scammers and avoid being a victim of fraud. Don’t let these criminals get away with stealing your hard-earned money. Also, if you have been the victim of a scam, please reach out to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint. They can be reached by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by mail at: 

Consumer Protection Division – Attorney General’s Office
Mail Service Center 9001 
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001

Patty holds a Bachelor of Science from UMUC, a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California and is pursuing her Doctorate in Business Administration at UMUC. She also holds an executive certificate in the Principles of Leading Transformational Nonprofits from the University of Notre Dame.