Protecting Texas Seniors
By Ken Paxton
While, anyone can be a victim of fraud, senior citizens are often considered more attractive targets for scammers. Maybe it’s because they grew up at a time when more people were true to their word. Or they are typically home more often, and therefore more likely to answer the phone or a knock on the door. Or even because technology has evolved so rapidly in their lifetimes, they are often unaware of the dangers that lurk behind their computer screens.
My office protects senior consumers by taking legal action under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and other consumer protection statutes. While my team and I are committed to protecting seniors and all Texans against fraud, the best form of protection is always to avoid becoming a victim.
The following provides information on some of the most common scams.
- Phishing – Never give your social security, credit card or bank account number to anyone who calls, texts or emails you for any reason, no matter who the person on the other ends says they are or what they need. Con artists have become so sophisticated in their techniques that they can create a false identity on caller ID or create online identities and websites that look almost identical to those of legitimate companies or governmental agencies. Ignore, delete and block junk email, and never use a link embedded within an unsolicited email to conduct business online.
- Grandparent scam – Recent reports indicate that seniors have been receiving telephone calls from a purported grandchild in need of money. The caller typically tells the victim that he or she has been in an accident, was arrested, is stranded or in similar trouble and needs money immediately. The caller will also insist that the potential victim not tell anyone else. Do not give this caller any personal or financial information. Always verify by asking the caller questions that only the real family member would know, and call a telephone number of a family member you know to be legitimate to verify before taking any action.
- Home Repair – Beware of unsolicited door-to-door home improvement offers, especially if the special is only good for one day or you are required to pay upfront. Consider putting a “no soliciting” sign on or close to your door.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Scams – Scammers posing as IRS agents have called unsuspecting individuals to tell them to pay up or risk arrest for filing their taxes late or incorrectly. Taxpayers need to know that the IRS does not use email or text messages to contact taxpayers about issues related to their income tax returns. IRS typically contacts taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Services with letters printed on IRS stationery sealed in an IRS envelope with a telephone number of an IRS office that a taxpayer can call with any questions.
While the aforementioned scams provide scenarios of strangers exploiting anonymous victims, financial abusers are often close to the victim and may include a family member, neighbor, caregiver, or a professional hired by the victim, such as an accountant or attorney. Remain vigilant by regularly checking bank account information and credit card statements for withdraws or charges that are unfamiliar. Keep money, valuables and important documents – such as your social security card and bank account information — hidden from plain view of others entering your home. Don’t feel pressured by others to do anything you don’t want to do, even if the request comes from a caregiver or member of your family.
For more information on protecting yourself or your loved ones against some of the most common scams targeting seniors, please visit the Senior Protection page of the Office of the Attorney General website athttps://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/senior-texans-page. To find information to report fraud or elderly abuse, please visit https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/elder-abuse.
Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General