Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Certain types of financial scams are most commonly targeted toward older employees and retirees who should be especially attuned to them, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which has held hearings on the issue in recent times and which operates a fraud hotline.

The most common scams include: computer scams; grandparent scams; health-related scams, especially medical alert device scams; identity theft, including reports of tax-related identity theft; lottery scams; and Social Security fraud. The panel said in a recent report that such scams cost individuals about $2.9 billion a year, plus additional costs to government programs.


For example, in a common form of a computer scam, often referred to as a “tech support” scam, fraudsters gain the victim’s trust by pretending to be from a well-known technology company, claiming they can stop an impending computer hack or virus, when in fact they are merely aiming to gain remote access to the computer. If the victim assents, “hackers will change the computer’s settings to increase the computer’s vulnerability, enroll the victim in worthless computer warranty programs, request credit card information to bill for supposed computer protection services, install malware to steal sensitive data or personal information and/or direct a victim to a fraudulent website to purchase software with a credit card.”

In the grandparent scam, “scammers claim they are with a family member, often a grandchild, who is in urgent need of money to cover medical care or fix a legal problem, such as money for bail or legal services after a supposed arrest. Scammers may obtain personal family information from social networking sites, which they use to make their stories more convincing.”

Health-related scams include fraudulent medical alert device services and improper claims submitted on an individual’s behalf to programs such as Medicare; identity theft commonly involves Social Security and Medicare identification numbers, as well as tax fraud after gaining access to Social Security numbers; and in lottery scams victims are told they have won a lottery but must make an advanced payment to cover taxes or fees in order to claim their winnings.

The report added: “It should be noted that some victims’ experiences overlap into multiple categories of scams. For example, once an individual becomes the victim of identity theft, his information may also be used to commit fraud by redirecting his Social Security payment or by claiming his tax refund.”