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Seniors among most vulnerable to telemarketing scams, other fraud

300 dpi Rick Nease color illustration hands illegally double-dipping into the U.S. Social Security fund. The Detroit Free Press 2009 
 
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300 dpi Rick Nease color illustration hands illegally double-dipping into the U.S. Social Security fund. The Detroit Free Press 2009 09000000; 14000000; krtlabor labor; krtnational national; krtsocial social issue; LAB; SOI; krt; mctillustration; 04018000; 09011002; FIN; pension; wage; 14000004; krtsocialissue social issue; social service; social services; 02001000; CLJ; CRI; krtcrime crime; nease; de contributed; double-dipping double-dip; social security fraud; 2009; krt2009 MCT

Anyone can be a target of a scam.

It usually starts with a phone call or an email from someone telling you that you need to send money somewhere for a list of reasons including life insurance, contest winnings and even federal taxes.

But the results of the phone calls and emails are almost always the same -- someone is trying to take your money or your idenitity.

And, according statistics from the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission, senior Americans are among the most vulnerable for these scams.

In 2014, the last year data was collected, about 1.5 million Americans fell victim to some type of fraud, including identity theft. Seniors made up about 26 percent of those affected, according to FTC.

Popular scams

One of the most popular ways fraud is committed is through telemarketing scams. Telemarketing scams are done over the phone. They usually involve a call where someone tells you that you need to take advantage of a special offer by paying for it immediately. The offers can be anything from goods and services to collecting alleged prize money.

FBI officials said there is usually a very small chance that money lost through telemarketing scams will be recovered.

Another popular type of scam is the "Nigerian Prince." This scam is usually conducted through emails. The premise is simple -- someone sends you an email notifying you that someone wants to share millions of dollars with you and to receive the money, all you have to do is end them a specified amount of money or give them access to your bank account.

According to the FBI, millions of dollars are lost annually through this type of scam.

But there are other ways seniors can fall prey to frauds and scams.

Other scams aimed

According to the National Council On Aging, seniors may be vulnerable to health insurance scams, fake prescription drugs ordered over the internet, bogus funeral and cemetery plots, investment schemes and reverse mortgage opportunities.

"Seniors, as a whole, are a very compassionate group of people and this sometimes makes them easy targets for fraud," Gulfport police Sgt. Damon McDaniel said.

He said seniors should remember one simple thing when it comes to telephone and email offers.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," McDaniel said. "The best thing you can do when someone calls you with something like this is ask a lot of questions and put them on edge."

McDaniel said if someone calls you with extremely bad news, you should also ask a lot of questions and never send anyone you don't know any money.

"We get calls from people claiming the IRS is going to put them in jail if they don't immediately give them money," he said. "That's not the way the IRS works -- ask them simple questions such as where is your local IRS office, who should you speak with, what's your Social Security number and for what year do you owe the taxes."

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