Top ten scams against seniors, according to federal ranking

The United States Senate earlier this year announced the top ten scams targeting Americans age 65 and older. At the top of the list? An impersonation scam that federal investigators have dubbed the most widespread fraud attempt in the history of the Internal Revenue Service.

The cases involved people both with the U.S. and in India, who called nearly two million elderly taxpayers and threatened arrests if supposed tax debts weren’t paid immediately over the phone. According to the IRS, as well as media reports, as many as 200 per week were swindled at the height of the scam.

Other scams that made the list, according to USA Today:

  • “Sweepstakes scams, run by perpetrators who contact victims by phone, tell them they’ve won a financial prize, and then require advance payment of a fee to collect the purported winnings.
  • Robocalls, using advanced electronic technology that enable would-be scammers to maximize the number of potential victims reached.
  • Computer scams a fraud in which callers impersonate representatives of well-known technology companies and convince victims to allow remote access to their home computers to check for problems. The scammers then charge fees to remove purported electronic viruses.
  • Elder financial abuse, in some cases involving relatives or friends who gain access to victims’ identification data, bank accounts or other records.
  • Grandparent scams, a con game in which fraudsters phone with phony claims that a grandchild is in trouble and needs help paying a hospital bill, returning home from overseas or gaining release from jail.”

More than 5 million fraud and other complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission last year and the year before found that many older said they were victims of imposter scams, telemarketing practices and tech support scams. Seniors accounted for nearly a third of consumers who reported their age in complaints to the FTC. Financial exploitation cost elderly men and women nearly $3 billion last year. There are efforts underway to increase federal penalties for those who prey on seniors whether over the phone or in person. In 2014, Florida lawmakers revised a state law to made it easier for prosecutors to try cases of financial exploitation of seniors.

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