Scamming older adults has become a multi-billion dollar business from every part of the globe. Lacking the common decency of their victims, scammers avoid traditional, legitimate careers to prey on senior citizens.
This kind of crime used to be simply known as robbery, but instead of holding you up on the street, scammers hide behind information technology to whisk away your savings through the internet.
Scams are a growth industry because the pickings are richer than a criminal could ever hope to get by mugging someone on the street.
According to the FBI, more money is lost in romance scams than any other kind of fraud.
Luring a trusting senior into an online relationship, promising love and companionship, scammers identify victims by researching social media accounts or online dating profiles. These scams start slow, then speed up after the crook has built up trust.
Scammers increase the pace of communication through texts, emails and phone calls (all untraceable).
Romance scams may take weeks or months to get to the point when pleas for money begin. Instead of sending you poems and flowers, your new love suddenly comes up with an unending saga of bad luck, personal injury, arrest, illness or financial loss.
Average losses to romance scammers in 2021 were about $9,000 per victim. Many unlucky victims have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, in romance scams.
Fraudsters are always cooking up new investment scams in real estate, securities, precious metals, even non-existent DVD vending machines.
“Due diligence” is a familiar term to any serious investor, which basically means taking time to research any opportunity before sending money. Don’t get ahead of yourself with a slick operator claiming fantastic profits and yields on a “small” investment of $5,000 or $10,000.
Above all, avoid messing around with investing in cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin). In 2021, crypto scams increased 60 times from 2018. Since the start of 2021, the Federal Trade Commission says that more than 46,000 people lost more than $1 billion in crypto scams.
Cyrpto transfers operate outside the world of banks and can’t be reversed. When someone contacts you about investing in cryptocurrency, run the other way.
A GROWTH INDUSTRY
Scamming is a growth industry and information technology has enabled criminals to show up on your computer, smart phone or landline from any part of the world. Poor countries like Pakistan, Romania, India, Jamaica and Nigeria are havens for computer-equipped criminals.
And even if you can prove that someone has stolen your money from a place like Romania, the police have their hands full with crime right here in America.
Protect your savings by using common sense whenever something just doesn’t seem right. Be slow to react to any request for money. Don’t be pressured into doing anything, especially when dealing with someone promising a lot for relatively nothing.
Keep your money where it belongs — in the bank.
— Dr. Dave Long of Poland, a Youngstown State University graduate, is a retired public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who later worked as an Elder Scam Prevention Outreach specialist in Rochester, N.Y., before moving back to the Mahoning Valley.
Long answers questions during a series of monthly talks on the latest scams, why scammers target seniors and how to protect personal information 1 p.m. fourth Thursday of every month at the Poland Township Government Center, 3339 Dobbins Road, Poland.