Attorney General Chris Carr is urging Georgia’s older adults and their caregivers to stay informed on how to recognize and avoid some common scams. While these schemes can and do happen to people of all ages, the perpetrators often target older adults because they are frequently home during the day, have money saved, and may be too polite to hang up the phone or turn away a solicitor.
“We must do all we can to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially with con artists constantly inventing new ways to perpetrate their crimes,” said Carr. “Our Consumer Protection Division offers a number of resources to help older adults recognize and avoid scams, and we stand ready to assist those who may fall victim to this type of fraud.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following information to help Georgians protect themselves and their loved ones from scams.
Common Scams Targeting Older Adults
Grandparent and Virtual Kidnapping Scams: In these scams, fraudsters use scare tactics to try to get you to pay a large sum of money – typically via wire transfer or gift cards – to rescue a loved one who is in a dire situation. They may pose as your grandchild, a friend of his or hers, or a police officer. They tell you that your grandchild is badly hurt or in jail and that you must send money immediately to help him or her. In a similar scam, con artists claim to have kidnapped your loved one and insist that he or she will be harmed unless you pay a ransom immediately.
Romance Scams: In a typical romance scam, fraudsters create a fake online profile using someone else’s photos. They profess their love early on, even though they have never met you. They encourage you to communicate with them via email, phone or IM, rather than through the online dating site, so that the dating service won’t have a record of the conversation. They often claim to be traveling, in the military, or living or working abroad to explain why they are unable to meet in person. Once the scammers have your romantic interest and your trust, they make up stories about how they urgently need money and ask you to send it to them immediately via wire transfer or gift cards. If you send the money, you will likely never see it – or hear from the romantic partner – again. In some cases, though, a scammer may try to string a victim along to see if they can get the person to keep sending more money.
Law Enforcement Imposter Scams: Con artists are using phone spoofing technology to make it appear as though you are receiving a call from a legitimate law enforcement agency. In one reported scenario, the imposters claim that the potential victim was summoned to a federal grand jury and missed the court date. Because of this, the individual is told that they must report to a local law enforcement office for bond and to “process the paperwork.” To resolve the issue, the perpetrators instruct the potential victim to go to a retail store and buy “bond vouchers” in the form of gift cards.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: You are told you have won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. In order to collect your winnings, you are informed that you must first pay taxes or customs duties – typically via wire transfer. You send the money, but you never receive your winnings because there was actually no sweepstakes or lottery in the first place.
Utility Scams: Con artists pose as representatives from your local gas or electric company. They may call or knock on your door, claiming that you have an unpaid balance and that unless you pay immediately – typically via Green Dot Money Pack prepaid cards or your credit card – they will shut off your service.
Email Scams Targeting Faith-Based Communities: There are different variations to these imposter emails. In one version, scammers set up Gmail accounts that display the actual name of the rabbi, priest, pastor or imam. The fraudster then emails the members of the congregation asking for emergency donations to help someone in need and instructs the recipients to purchase iTunes gift cards and mail them to a different address.
Text Message Scams: A scammer may text you posing as a well-known entity, such as your bank, credit card provider, Amazon, Walmart, Fedex or a government agency. The message may say your account has been suspended for suspected fraud, you have won a prize or rewards points, or that your package cannot be delivered due to a wrong address. You are typically asked to click on a link that may look legitimate but is not.
Red Flags of a Scam
Although the variety of scams can seem endless, there are some common characteristics that can help you to recognize and avoid a potential scam.
Be on the lookout for these red flags:
- Being asked to pay money in order to receive a prize or get a job
- Pressure to act immediately
- Use of scare tactics, like telling you a loved one is in danger, that your computer has been hacked or threatening arrest if you don’t act now
- Insistence that you wire money or pay by gift card
- Receiving a check or overpayment and being asked to wire a portion of the funds back
- Being asked to provide your password, PIN, Social Security number, account number or financial information to someone who contacts you out of the blue
- Get-rich-quick and other promises that sound too good to be true
If you are not sure whether a contact or solicitation is legitimate, hang up the phone. If it’s an email or text, do not reply, click on any links, or download any attachments. Then, look up the actual contact information for the company or organization and call that number to verify whether you need to take any action or provide any information.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults provides information on an array of topics of importance to seniors, including scams, identity theft, credit and debt, reverse mortgages, charitable giving, home repairs, funerals, advance directives, long-term care, elder abuse and more. The guide is available for download in English, Spanish and Korean on the Consumer Protection Division website.
File a Complaint
If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 404-651-8600 or file a complaint online.