There’s so much buzz about AI taking over the scam universe it’s easy to forget that old-school scams are still effective in fleecing victims, especially when retirees are targeted. So it’s a good time to brush up on how thieves operate and how you can prevent swindles, even if you’re not retired.

Some of the most common fraud schemes, sadly, are still effective. “Fraud schemes must evolve and change to survive. But the old cliché always applies, ‘trust but verify,’” Amanda D’Amico, vice president, risk, and fraud strategy and operations for Thomson Reuters, told me.

“Citizens should always assume that an unexpected call or email might not be legitimate and attempt to verify the information relayed independently.”

While older people are definitely prime targets for crooks, younger victims are falling for cyber schemes.

“While the stereotype remains that elderly people are most likely to be scammed, we are seeing a trend the last couple of years with more and more young people falling victim to these scams,” D’Amico said.

“Those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports filed with the FTC, while people aged 70-79 reported losing money in 23% of their reports, and people 80 and over reported it in 22% of their reports. But when the elderly do fall for them, their losses are much bigger, since younger people are still stacking their nest eggs.”

What are the most prevalent scams? The lure involves winning a prize and getting something for nothing. They include:

Sweepstakes or Prize Scams: It is easy to get sucked into giveaways (especially if one of your favorite products is offered!), but it’s important to identify a real giveaway from a fake one.

Snail Mail Scams: While internet scams are continuing to take over, old school snail mail scams are still getting the job done, conning hard working and unsuspecting Americans. Bad actors will send flyers or letters in the mail telling the recipient that they are entitled to a large inheritance or requesting payment for a service you may have already paid for through a legitimate business.

Follow These Safeguards

The rules are simple: If something sounds too good to be true, it’s a scam. Remember to follow these guidelines:

  1. Do I recognize the name or address of the sender?
  2. Is the alleged important piece of mail sent first class?
  3. Is my name and other identifiable information spelled/listed correctly?
  4. Does the content of the mail follow proper English and grammar rules?
  5. Never send identifiable information via snail mail, such as Social Security number, credit card details, or bank account numbers. No legitimate source will ever request or need this information via mail for any reason.

These safeguards apply to any offer, whether it’s a text, email, call or letter. There’s no such thing as being too cautious.

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