As if suffering under the increased isolation forced by COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough, the pandemic has also brought with it a new rash of fraud and scams targeting older adults. While seniors always have been the targets of fraud, the recent uptick in incidents suggests an even greater need to be on alert.
Unfortunately, older adults are often at greater risk for fraud and scams since they are more likely to rely on others for support with money management, access to healthcare and other tasks of daily living.
Specific to Covid-19, recent scams have included online offers to sell coronavirus vaccines or cures (there are none yet!), requests for money (or gift cards) to support coronavirus victims or research, or offers to sell you shares in the hot new coronavirus stock. Other scammers will offer to sign you up for special coronavirus benefits, only to steal your personal information.
Of course, the age-old “phishing” scams continue as well. “Phishing” is when emails are sent that look to be from reputable sources, sometimes even mimicking an email from your bank or another trusted individual. When opened, that email could result in a virus being installed on your computer, the sharing of private/personal information, or other negative consequences.
Here are some tips that can help keep you from falling victim to one of these scams:
• Ask a trusted family member or friend for advice before giving out your financial information online, over the phone or in person.
• Be wary of people offering to sign you up for benefits. In Washington, the State Department of Social and Health Services provides a safe website where you can check your own eligibility. www.dshs.wa.gov Ask a trusted family member or friend to help you apply if needed.
• Ensure that your bank has emergency contact information for you on file so that they can reach out if it seems something is amiss. Even better, set up a Power of Attorney.
If you believe you may have been the victim of a scam, contact the state attorney general’s office to file a complaint at the state Attorney General’s website: www.atg.wa.gov/senior-fraud. Remember, if something seems off, check-in with someone you trust.