Protect Your Loved Ones from Elder Fraud and Social Security Scams
Following National Grandparents Day on September 10, United Bank & Trust wants customers to be aware of scams that target elderly populations in order to protect themselves and their older loved ones.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2022 Elder Fraud Report, seniors saw an 84% increase in financial losses related to fraud from 2021 to 2022. Officials expect that this rate will continue to rise in 2023 following the Social Security Administration’s approval of an 8.7% cost of living adjustment. The adjustment was the largest in more than 40 years, which further encourages scammers to take advantage.
Seniors are a particularly vulnerable group, which makes them a perfect target for scammers. In some instances, seniors’ lifetime savings can be wiped out by scammers, leaving little hope of recovering the funds.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the newest Social Security scam involves receiving a phone call, text or email from someone claiming to be a representative of the Social Security Administration who asks you to apply for the cost-of-living increase. They may direct you to a website to verify personal information, such as name, address and Social Security number. This information will then be used to commit identity theft.
What Consumers Need to Know
Consumers must understand that the cost-of-living increase is automatic. There is no need to fill out an application. The Social Security Administration will never call, text or email regarding issues with Social Security numbers. Instead, they will mail a letter.
The Social Security Administration will also never:
- Threaten consumers with arrest or legal action.
- Suspend Social Security numbers.
- Ask for personal information or banking details in exchange for an increase in benefits.
“Social Security scams use the same methods as other phishing scams,” said Jeremy Bristow, Senior Operations Officer at United Bank & Trust. “It’s important for consumers to be suspicious of such communications. And if you have any doubt at all, hang up the phone or contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 directly to verify its legitimacy.”
Precautions to Avoid Scams
While this Social Security scam is the newest one being used by fraudsters, it is not the only one being used to target older populations. Help seniors avoid becoming victims of fraud by taking cautious action. Here are some steps recommended by the FBI:
- Shred old bank statements, credit card receipts, and other pieces of paper that contain personal information once you have read and responded to them.
- If you see an unexpected pop-up message on your computer or if your computer screen is locked, disconnect from the Internet and shut down the device. Pop-ups can be used to freeze devices and spread malicious software.
- Carefully evaluate any unsolicited phone calls, mailings, or door-to-door offers.
- Do not give out personal information via phone, mail, or Internet unless you initiate contact with the other party.
- Ensure all anti-virus and security software on your computer is up to date.
- Evaluate investment choices with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.
- Do not pay in advance for services.
- Do not pay for services with prepaid gift cards or cryptocurrency. Legitimate services will not request payment through these methods.
“These are just a few tips that can help keep you and your elderly loved ones safe from scammers,” said Bristow. “Discussions about fraud can be hard to have, but they’re in the best interest of friends and family members that could potentially be victims of fraud."
If you think your United Bank & Trust account may have been compromised with fraudulent activity, report it immediately by contacting us at (641) 753-5900.