Social-Media Based Scams against Older Persons Growing Fast, Report Says

Social-Media Based Scams against Older Persons Growing Fast, Report Says

While phone calls remain the most common ways scammers target older persons, the percentage of those 60 and older targeted by social media grew from 3 to 15 percent over 2017-2021, according to the Senate Select Committee on Aging.

The committee’s latest report on the topic says its own fraud hotline and FTC statistics show scammers still rely heavily on phone calls to those in that age group, and especially to those on the older side. “Scammers can use phone calls to impersonate government agencies or family members, sometimes masking their caller ID as the person or agency they’re impersonating, a tactic known as spoofing,” it said.

However, it adds that “As older adults become more active online, scammers may increasingly use social media as a method of contact. Social media offers scammers the opportunity to gain access to personal details and gain the trust of the older adult.”

Despite warnings to consumers, scams continue to grow with more than $5.8 billion in losses reported to the FTC in 2021, an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous year. Older adults report the highest losses per person.

Suggestions for victim protection include (in his words): don’t accept a new friend request from someone you already have as a friend or who isn’t normally connected on social media; do not click on links sent by friends with whom you do not normally communicate; avoid clicking on ads that offer low prices on popular items and brands.

Also: avoid quizzes and other similar social media threads that ask you to provide personal information, such as places you’ve visited, your favorite food, hobbies or pets; stop all contact with a potential scammer by blocking instant messages and email addresses; Protect your social media account access by using strong passwords and privacy settings to hide information like your city, phone number, and date of birth.

The most commonly used scams involve impersonating a government official, usually claiming that there is a problem with Social Security benefits or that the person owes taxes or fees to the IRS. Warning signs include being asked to provide information that the government would already have; pressure to act quickly; and print to send money through gift cards, prepaid debit cards or overnight delivery of checks.

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