There’s no doubt we are living in unprecedented times. Over the last few weeks, however, people across the globe have banded together and expressed immense generosity and gratitude in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the “Clap For Our Careers” movement in Great Britain to everyday Americans offering to buy groceries for their neighbors, we at Marjorie P. Lee have been incredibly moved by these acts of kindness.
This generosity makes it even harder to believe that scammers are trying to exploit everyday people’s fears and uncertainty around the pandemic for profit. As with many scams, these attacks often target our country’s most vulnerable populations, including seniors. As a caregiver, there are steps you can take to protect the older adults in your life from falling for these scams.
the AARP this week released a study that found the rate of elder financial exploitation has more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020. It found in 2020 alone, COVID-related scams stole $100 million from older adults.
What Types of Coronavirus Scams Are There?
So far, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported several different types of investment scams, the four most common being:
- People or businesses selling fake cures.
- Phishing emails that appear to come from the World Health Organization of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Websites and apps that seem to share COVID-19 information, but then lock your device until payment is made.
- Fraudulent donation sites for fake or non-existent charities.
The Justice Department has been taking action against these scams — the first being a restraining order against a website offering a fraudulent vaccine. As a caregiver, you too can take action to help the seniors in your life protect themselves and their money.
Talking with Your Aging Loved One about Coronavirus Investment Scams
The best time to discuss these coronavirus investment scams with your aging loved ones is before they’re targeted by one. Talk with them — or, if you’re not currently in the same household, give them a call — and explain that they could receive a fraudulent message in the coming weeks. While you don’t want to scare them unnecessarily, informing them of these types of scams can make them more aware and vigilant, and therefore more protected. Explain to them the different types of scams that the Department of Justice has been reporting.
Remind them that they shouldn’t click on links in emails from people they don’t know and if they’re unsure about something that they should ask your opinion. Many seniors who aren’t tech-savvy realize that their younger caregivers can see what’s real or fake easier than they can.
Also, tell them to hang up if they receive any robocalls. Don’t press a number to speak to someone or even be removed from the calling list — just hang up. This way they can’t accidentally put themselves on a list for even more fraudulent calls.
Finally, advise seniors to ignore any advertisements or messages about ordering vaccinations or home testing kits. These products are not approved by the FDA and will not actually help anyone who has or thinks they have the coronavirus.
Combatting Coronavirus Scams
Besides having a proactive conversation about the types of coronavirus scams and how to avoid them, another great way to combat these scams is to fact-check. Whether it’s a news article on social media, a realistic-looking email, or a financial plea from a charity, you can protect yourself and your loved ones by verifying the information first. Look for reputable sources, especially official sources like the CDC or WHO, that are sharing the same information. If you were contacted about making a donation, search for the charity, and find information about who they are and how long they’ve been established. Verify that emails are coming from reliable sources.
Encourage your loved ones to ask you before they take any action related to these types of messages. If possible, consider finding a time that you and they can talk about the most recent information about COVID-19. This way you’ll know they’re up-to-date on information and they won’t feel the need to rely on articles online or information from other (potentially fraudulent) sources.
Ensuring Your Loved One’s Safety
This is a stressful time for everyone. Caregivers may already be worried about their senior’s physical health, but now there’s an additional concern of fraud and scams. Fortunately, these steps go a long way to protecting the seniors in your life. The Justice Department and FTC have also created many resources to help you identify and report any scams you or your loved ones may find. Keep yourself aware, be vigilant, and always remember to approach seniors from a place of understanding when it comes to coronavirus investment scams.
We at Marjorie P. Lee hope you and your family are staying healthy and well during this time. For more on how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic here at our community, visit our website.
(This blog has been updated with new information about the AARP BankSafe report about Pandemic-era financial exploitation)