By Molly Adamson
Staff writer 

Senior scam increase tied to COVID-19 isolation


Last updated 7/3/2021 at 2:19pm

New Mexicans over the age of 60 lost more than $7 million in online frauds and scams last year, according to a special report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3).

IC3 said 837 of the state's senior residents lost over $7 million in 2020.

More than half of that amount was lost due to confidence fraud, or romance scams and Clovis’ Senior Services Director Barbara Riggan said in an interview with the Eastern New Mexico News that those are some of the more common ones she’s seen. She said seniors also tend to fall for scams that can involve their grandchildren, such as when someone calls saying their grandson is in jail and needs money to get out.

Denise King, the Aging Network Division Director for the state’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department explained that seniors are often seeking out companionship when the fall victim to the romance scams specifically.

“So they befriend people and I think those that are malicious and intending to fraud seniors are targeting that specific population because they know seniors are wanting that kind of conmanship,” King commented.

“Initially they’re wanting that friendship and then it goes really awry with them then completely depleting their savings,” King said. “It’s disheartening to hear some of the seniors’ stories of feeling so rejected and scammed out of what they had and they did it because they wanted that friendship.”

Riggan commented that a lot of the seniors she works with have fallen for some sort of scam, and that she often hears about at least one occurrence a week.

“What we do is we try to educate them,” Riggan stated. “If someone comes in and says, ‘Oh well, I think I maybe got a scam phone call’ then we’ll push that information out to other seniors via Facebook and (also) just talking to them.”

Samantha Morales, the Director of the New Mexico Senior Medicare Patrol Program at the state’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department, gave some tips to help people avoid scams.

“Essentially what we say at the New Mexico Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is don’t click on links from sources or emails you just don’t know,” Morales advised. “Just like the robocalls, don’t answer those calls from strangers or numbers you don’t recognize.”

SMP helps seniors handle any healthcare fraud situations they may run into. Morales acknowledged that a lot of scammers have recently begun taking advantage of the COVID-19 vaccine by sending out a “survey” about it and then asking Medicare beneficiaries to go to a link and then complete a form. The form asks for peoples’ personal information and credit card information so that they could ‘win a prize.”

King said the isolation of COVID-19 has increased seniors’ need for companionship and that often leads them down a wrong path. But as long as people are aware of what links they’re clicking on and not sharing their personal information the Internet can remain a safe place.


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