Scammers increasingly have their eyes on senior citizens

As the COVID-19 pandemic has gained in intensity since early 2020, there also has been an escalation of another crisis — scams targeting senior citizens.

There has been speculation of an increase in loneliness among senior citizens who are shuttered in their homes as a result of the pandemic, possibly causing them to put their trust in anyone who is just willing to talk them.

Michelle DeWoody, director of Venango County Older Adult Services, wouldn’t say for certain that has been the case, but did acknowledge the number of scams has increased over the past few years, including a rise after the pandemic hit.

“They’re lonely,” and scammers “will talk to (seniors) like they’re their best friends so they’ll trust them and send them money.”

Building a rapport, she said, is how scammers operate, and in general the most common scams targeting all Americans are phone and romance scams.

In 2021 alone, 95,000 Americans lost $770 million to scams, according to a recent ABC News report.

“Phone scams are probably the biggest,” DeWoody said. “But it concerns me that people are now going into (senior citizens’) homes.”

DeWoody said seniors who are isolated or home-bound are more likely to become a victim of scams.

She said two people who claimed to work for the Area Agency on Aging approached a Venango County individual’s home and tried to sell insurance to the homeowner; they were “persistent on this individual signing the documents.” However, the individual did not sign.

DeWoody advises senior citizens to always be wary.

“If someone calls you, don’t give them your bank account information or Social Security number,” she said. “If you think it’s your bank, hang up and call your bank directly. Don’t just take their word for it.”