The COVID pandemic has and continues to take both a physical and mental toll on senior citizens. In addition to being the most vulnerable to the virus and having to endure long isolation periods from family and friends, the pandemic has also brought with it a whole new variety of frauds targeting older adults.
As many industries must adapt to new trends to stay ahead of the game, so do scammers become more creative to con unsuspecting people looking for answers to problems online, on the phone or in person.
“Scammers stay on top of whatever is new such as the popularity of Zoom, COVID-19 vaccines and online shopping, and then move fast to create ploys that best fit the moment”, says Amy Nofziger, AARP’s Director of Fraud Victim Support.
Below are two of the recent trending frauds that are happening more frequently that not just seniors, but all adults should be aware of in 2021. Each fraud features a scenario of how the scam plays out, the scammer’s intentions and how to avoid becoming a victim of the ploy.
1. Zoom Phishing Emails
Scammers registered thousands of fake Zoom-related internet domains in the early stages of the pandemic. This was so that they could send out emails that look like they’re from the popular videoconferencing website, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The scheme: “You receive an email, text or social media message with the Zoom logo, telling you to click on a link because your account is suspended or you missed a meeting,” says Katherine Hutt, national spokesperson for the BBB. “Clicking can allow criminals to download malicious software onto your computer, access your personal information to use for identity theft, or search for passwords to hack into your other accounts.”
How to avoid: “Never click on links in unsolicited emails, texts or social media messages”, Hutt says. If you think there is a problem with your account, visit Zoom’s real website at Zoom.us and follow the steps for customer support.
2. COVID-19 Vaccination Card Scams
Many who received a COVID vaccine then posted selfies on social media showing off their vaccination card. Scammers immediately pounced on the opportunity.
The scheme: “With your full name, birth date and information about where you received your shot, scammers have valuable data for identity theft, breaking into your bank accounts, getting credit cards in your name and more,” Hutt says.
How to avoid: If you want to inform friends and family that you got your shots on social media, a selfie with just a generic vaccine sticker will suffice. It is also important that you review your social media security settings to choose who can see your posts.
For other trending frauds, see this recent article from AARP: Top Scams Targeting Older Americans in 2021. Other frauds in the article include:
- Phony Online Shopping Websites
- Medicare Card Scams
- Account Takeover Scam Texts
May is Elder Law Month and for those most at risk, staying informed and being prepared is of the utmost importance.