Senior citizens lost nearly $1 billion in scams in 2020

KMVT News took a look at what scams are currently out there targeting seniors, and what they can do to protect themselves.
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 8:49 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Senior citizens lost nearly $1 billion dollars to internet scams in 2020, according to Atlas VPN Findings. KMVT News took a look at what scams are currently out there targeting seniors, and what they can do to protect themselves.

During the pandemic, many senior citizens in the Magic Valley area dealt with loneliness and isolation, as many senior centers were closed due to COVID-19.

“I think for a lot of them that was their social gathering, and they didn’t have that anymore. They didn’t have all the information senior centers give them, commodity,” said Shawna Wasko contracts manager for the CSI Office on Aging. “Then we had senior centers that opened, and COVID went ramped through them and had top close back down, so it has been an up and down battle with trying to get them open.”

Wasko said those conditions created the perfect storm for senior citizens to be the target of scams, specifically phone scams.

“Seniors will talk to people(they don’t know) who call them on the phone where the younger generation will just hang up on them or will not answer,” said Wasko. “I have tried and tried to tell my dad if you don’t recognize that number don’t answer it, but he does and they end up talking on the phone. Plus they’re lonely.”

Lorae Conklin, who is a senior service specialist at the CSI Office on Aging, said seniors today coming from a very “trusting generation” and don’t expect to be scammed and deceived on the phone. They are also not highly knowledgeable about internet technology and what scams are out there.

Wasko said one of the big issues with scams is many seniors don’t admit when they are scammed.

“They are ashamed. They are afraid their kids will think they need to go to a home now because they were duped,” Wasko said.

Anytime that there is any kind of natural disaster or type of emergency scams present themselves said Conklin, and the ones targeting seniors right now involve COVID vaccines.

“They will try to represent somebody that was giving the vaccine ask them for money so they could purchase the vaccine,” said Conklin. “Mention things like they could pay to get on a waiting list.”

She said according to their research one out of every ten seniors citizens is a target of a scam, and the best thing they can do is hang up the phone if someone they don’t know calls them and asks them for money.

“First of all Medicare, IRS, Social Security are the three places that will never call you. If anyone calls representing those three places you can rest assured it’s not them,” Conklin said.

She said 10 of the 16 senior centers in the Magic Valley area have opened back up, and statistically, seniors are less likely to be scammed when centers are open, and they have people they can talk to. Conklin said she plans to go out to the senior centers during congregant meals every couple of months to educate seniors about what current scams are out there and how they can protect themselves.

“I have a couple of senior centers scheduled this month to go visit, in which I will educate them on how to block those calls(scams),” Conklin said.

She also said her office has been posting current scams on their Facebook page, and they sending out pamphlets with scams listed on them to seniors who get meals delivered to them.

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