Robocalls Are on the Rise
COVID-19 has brought out the best in many Americans, but it has also emboldened and empowered fraudsters. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that, throughout the last few months, more than 18,000 scams have stolen $13.4 million from Americans. These schemes have involved everything from fake advertisements for expensive pets to dangerous and deadly COVID-19 “cures.”
As many Americans enter their third month under stay-at-home-orders, scammers are leaning especially hard on one method in particular: robocalls. Typically, most robocallers attempt to impersonate representatives from the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). More recently, however, seniors have reported an increase in calls related to the COVID-19 outbreak and their CARES Act stimulus checks.
Robocall Scams and COVID-19
Seniors are especially vulnerable to robocall scams and the current crisis only exacerbates the issue. A recent survey by Provision Living, an organization that manages senior living communities, found that seniors are receiving more calls than ever. 91% of the more than 4,000 respondents believe they’ve seen an increase in fraudulent phone calls, with 65% claiming that they receive at least one every day.
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When robocall scams work, it’s often because they instill a sense of fear, convincing the victim that they have no choice but to pay up. With fear and uncertainty running especially high, it’s no wonder scammers are working overtime. 20% of respondents reported receiving calls that were explicitly related to COVID-19. Specific topics run the gamut from potential treatments to free testing and financial relief.
The IRS reminds seniors that it never makes phone calls demanding immediate action or asks for payment in the form of prepaid cards or wire transfers. What’s more, IRS agents will never make threats or ask for payments to anyone other than the U.S. Treasury.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers additional robocall safety tips:
- Be wary of unfamiliar numbers and never respond to calls or texts from any number that appears suspicious
- Never share sensitive personal or financial information over the phone
- Remember that scammers may use “spoof phone numbers” that mimic familiar ones
- Do not click on hyperlinks from unfamiliar numbers or any suspicious links
- Always research charitable organizations before making donations
Seniors can help address the robocall epidemic by reporting potential scams to the IRS, FCC, or FTC. Robocalls are definitely a nuisance, but with a little careful thinking, that’s all they have to be.