Consumer Alert: Florida Office of Financial Regulation List Scams Targeting Senior Citizens
By Space Coast Daily // March 15, 2016
lottery scams, investment schemes
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — With more than 4.9 million people age 60 and older, Florida ranks first in the nation in the percentage of its citizens who are seniors.
As Floridians age, retirement savings and other accumulated wealth help ensure financial security and can lead to a lifetime of happiness in retirement.
Unfortunately, wealth is one of the reasons scammers target unsuspecting senior citizens.
For seniors, who are reliant on their savings for income, the current low interest rate environment can make investment schemes ever more enticing.
A report by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that Americans age 65 and older are more likely to be targeted by conmen.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) reminds senior Floridians to be on the lookout for potential financial scams.
The OFR encourages family members to have open conversations with loved ones about the risks of financial fraud.
Financial scams that typically target seniors are:
• Telemarketing Scams – The scammer poses as a telemarketing company either collecting money for a phony charity or selling a fake product. They ask for credit card information or bank account information. However, no products or receipts materialize and the scammer makes off with your money.
• Lottery Scams – The scammer informs the victim that they have won the lottery or sweepstakes and need to pay a fee in order to receive the prize money. However, there is no lottery money and the fee payment is pocketed by the scammer.
• Investment Schemes – The scammer offers an investment product with unrealistically high rates of return, a financial product so complex that it is difficult to understand, or an investment that is only available for an extremely limited time. Often, they will employ high-pressure sales tactics to persuade the victim to invest. Unfortunately, the investment is not real and the scammer instead uses the money for their own purposes.
• Grandparent Scams – The scammer calls pretending to be a grandchild and asks for money to solve some unexpected problem or issue. Often, they say that they don’t want to get into trouble with their parents. The scammer will ask the victim to wire money or load money onto a prepaid debit card. By the time the grandparent learns that their real grandchild didn’t make the call, the scammer is long gone with their money.
Protect yourself from becoming a victim by learning about the risks. Walk away if you encounter classic red flags such as unsolicited offers, promises of little or no risk, any upfront fee collected before services are provided and high-pressure sales tactics like “you must act now” or “this offer won’t last long.”
It is also important to remember that legitimate financial products or investments are not suitable for everyone. Investments associated with free lunch seminars, reverse mortgages and stream-of-income payouts could be legitimate financial products and are often marketed to senior citizens, but may not be the right decision for you.
It is imperative to make sure the investment products you choose are aligned with your financial goals before making a commitment or signing a contract. Visit the OFR Consumer Knowledge Center to learn more.
If you are a victim of fraud or to report suspicious activity, please file a complaint with the OFR online, flofr.com, or call (850) 487-9687.