Scammers targeting older adults more than ever

Published 3:49 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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By Shanteya Hudson

NC News Service

From impersonations to investment schemes and AI, scammers appear to be targeting older adults in North Carolina and across the country more than ever.

The latest report from the Federal Trade Commission reveals older adults lost $1.6 billion to scammers last year, almost half of it to bogus investments.

Joe Mecca, vice president of communications for Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh, said recognizing scams can be a challenging task for seniors and their financial caregivers, as scammers find new ways to tap into people’s money.

“There is a growing trend right now where individuals will reach out, usually through text and pretend to be a wrong number,” Mecca explained. “What they do is, they create a personal relationship with that individual and use it to get them to either invest money or they straight up just ask for it.”

He pointed out financial caregivers play a crucial role in shielding their loved ones from scams. Staying on top of their financial relationships and monitoring accounts for suspicious activity can help safeguard people from being defrauded.

The FTC has noted while younger people are more likely to report financial scams, older adults suffer higher losses, and may be too embarrassed to report them. Mecca underscored the importance of taking action if you or a loved one suspect you have been conned.

“First things to do would, one, be to report it to their financial institution,” Mecca advised. “In many cases, they’ve got resources that are going to help a person to try to maybe track down or identify what has happened. The other thing to do is file a police report, because it is a crime.”

There is no guarantee funds that can be recouped once they are lost. Mecca recommended the best way to protect yourself is with knowledge about how to keep personal and financial information secure.

“One of the things that we see is people themselves are often the weak link in security measures,” Mecca acknowledged. “We like to tell people not to reuse usernames if you can, and certainly not passwords, for multiple websites.”

Mecca added it is also helpful to monitor news from organizations like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has a Scams Against Older Adults Advisory Group, which will next meet virtually on April 2 to focus on education, technology and effective communication to prevent scams.