The phone rings and the caller ID looks as though the call is from someone in your local community. So, you pick up the phone only to realize it’s a telemarketer—or even worse, someone who claims they are from the IRS. This scenario happens all the time, and it is hard to stop.

I recently got two phone messages which alleged that I am involved in a lawsuit, so I’d “better call back to address this matter.” It doesn’t matter if you have a landline or a cell phone, somehow your number always gets into the wrong hands and can set you up to be a victim of a scam.

I often worried about my mom falling victim to these types of scam artists. As her memory declined, I was never sure if she would realize fast enough to hang up on the caller in time. Was she going to be swindled out of money, share her personal information, or be tricked into believing that she had not paid her taxes on time?

Unfortunately, older adults are often targets of identity thefts, scams, fraud, and financial exploitation. According to research, each year, over three billion dollars are lost to fraud specifically impacting seniors.

Surprisingly, fraud has also been impacting the millennial generation at a high rate. Younger people fall victim to scams because they are willing to take more risks online. They get in trouble by sharing personal information such as e-mail addresses, or their mother’s maiden name.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General offers this advice to keep you safe:

  •      If you are not familiar with a number or name on your caller ID, don’t pick up the phone. Let your answering machine pick up the message.
  •      Look at mail closely to see if the postmark is from outside the country. Mail from outside of the U.S. is likely mail fraud.
  •      Do not make payments in gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
  •      Your bank or credit card company will never call you to verify your personal or account information.
  •      Don’t carry your social security card or unneeded credit cards in your wallet.
  •      Never release information to healthcare services that you did not directly contact.

Be a smart consumer to stop scams before they happen. For more information, check out “Safety Tips for Seniors” below: