Scams against seniors have skyrocketed over the past two years

Scams targeting the elderly have proliferated during the pandemic, with losses from three popular types of frauds seeing triple-digit percentage spikes over the past two years, according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission.

Some of those scams are directly related to the pandemic—shady businesses promoting bogus Covid treatments, for instance—while others found fertile ground in the general confusion and economic dislocation of the past two years.

“Covid-19 has had, and continues to have, a particularly devastating impact on the health and finances of older Americans,” the FTC says in its report.

Investment-related scams that don’t necessarily have a direct connection to the pandemic have especially flourished since 2020. In that time, reported losses from those types of schemes have ballooned 213% to $147 million, according to the FTC.

The commission has taken a number of enforcement actions on that front, such as the March order for an online investment site to pay $2.4 million related to a trading scheme that the commission said made bogus earnings claims and locked investors in hard-to-cancel subscription services. Many of the victims were retirees and older Americans.

The FTC’s report acknowledges the challenges of quantifying the extent of any type of fraud, which relies on the victim being aware of the scam and reporting it. The report found that older Americans—defined as 60 or older—were “substantially less likely” to report losing money to a scam than younger Americans. But in the instances that were reported, the oldest Americans lost the most money. Victims in their 80s reported a median loss of $1,500 to fraud, while victims in their 70s had a median loss of $800.

The report is yet another indicator for advisors that scams are on the rise, and that it can be helpful to talk over some of the common frauds with clients—especially older ones.

Continue reading at Barron's.


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