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FBI warns people to beware of scams targeting seniors

An iphone being held by an elderly person.
Scams can be conducted via phone, email, social media or even regular mail.

Cases of fraud against seniors are rising and the FBI's Springfield Bureau is reminding people to watch out for elderly family members who could be at risk.

Supervisory Special Agent Price McCarty works on financial fraud cases. He said it isn't new technology that makes seniors vulnerable, but their isolation. One type of scam the agency sees, he said, is a relationship or romance scam.

"Many of the most common scams that seniors fall prey to are online relationship scams, or what we call romance scams. They meet somebody that they believe is in need, and often times what we've seen in the past is that this is somebody that pretends to be a service member that is overseas that is in financial need, an American who's working overseas who has fallen prey to a faulty financial system in another country and what they've tricked these people into doing is sending them money that they need that they intend to send back at some point," he said.

McCarty said these can also include scams where someone establishes a romantic relationship, promising to come to the United States and marry the target but says they need financial support in the meantime.

The FBI says people should never give out any personal details unless they initiated the phone call or contact and people should never pay for services using pre-paid gift cards or cryptocurrency. The FBI also suggests talking over any financial decisions with trusted family members, friends, or a financial advisor and says an offer that requires urgent or secretive action could be a sign of a scam.

Steph Whiteside is a Digital Media News Specialist with WSIU radio in Carbondale, Ill. She previously worked as a general reporter at AJ+ and Current TV.
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