Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Calls from persons pretending to be IRS agents and demanding immediate payments lead the list of the most common scams attempted against older persons, the Senate Committee on Aging has said, echoing warnings from others including the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

That scam is getting more sophisticated, it added. Following warnings from the IRS and the committee stressing that the IRS does not make such calls but rather sends a letter first, the callers now are saying they merely are calling to follow up because there has been no response to such a letter. “They then threaten retaliation, such as home foreclosure, arrest, and, in some cases, deportation, if immediate payment is not made by a certified check, credit card, electronic wire transfer, or pre-paid debit card,” a committee report says.


Other common scams targeted toward older persons include
* the sweepstakes scam, in which a caller states that a person has won a lottery but needs to send money in order to claim the prize;
* the computer scam, in which a caller pretending to be from a technology company warns that a person’s computer has been infected by a virus and saying that to fix it they need to give the caller remote access to their computers and personal and financial information;
* grant scams, in which callers say they are from a federal agency that has a payment for them but first they need to send in money to finalize it;
* home improvement scams in which scammers appear at a home and offer to do work such as  repairing a roof, repaving a driveway, repainting a house or room, or installing a home security system but demand payment in advance and then do substandard work or none; and
* the “grandparent scam” in which callers who have identified a person’s grandchild claim the grandchild is in trouble and needs money to help with an emergency, such as getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, or leaving a foreign country.