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Beware these common scams that specifically target seniors

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Scammers gravitate to tightened finances like moths to a flame.

To complicate matters, shelter-in-place restrictions have pushed people to make more online transactions. That means new opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of seniors who may be new digital accountholders.

Between financial worries and health fears about the novel coronavirus, it's a time to be hyper-alert regarding four points of contact: phone calls, text messages, email and social media.

Older Americans are likelier to be victims of ID theft, according to IDology, which provides identity protection services. The top issue is having a credit or debit card stolen, and the pandemic has likely helped spike an upswing in crime against senior citizens.

Comparing data from August 2019 through January with February and March, IDology found a 209% increase in the use of seniors' personal ID to commit fraud. But seniors were less likely to take action than other American adults.

Here's what to watch for and how to guard sensitive info.

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1. ID theft can be sold 

An overwhelming percentage of seniors don't know or don't believe that their personal information, such as Social Security numbers and bank account information, can be bought for a few dollars on the dark web

Protect your information by learning to spot phishing scams. These can show up as text messages, emails, phone calls or websites that ask you for private details, such as your Social Security number or bank information.

Double-check credentials, whether an organization or an individual, before making donations. 

2. 'This is (not) the IRS calling'

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No government agency will ever call, text or contact you on social media saying you owe money. No one will ever offer to help you get your stimulus check faster or other form of government assistance. 

Requests for gift cards, cash, wire transfers are always fraudulent. Requests for your personal identification, such as Social Security, Medicare ID, driver's license or bank account information, are always fraudulent.

3. False claims 

You can turn to several government agencies for info on common Covid-19 scams, sham calls and unproven health claims. 

The SEC issued an alert in February about investment scams related to coronavirus. At this time, there is no vaccine or drug that's been approved to treat the virus. Yet fraudsters are still pitching phony remedies, and the FTC keeps on sending warning letters to companies making dubious claims.

Another way you can lose private information is by sharing your details with scammers pretending to be contact tracers working for public health departments. The FTC issued a warning in May to watch out for spam text messages that ask you to click a link. 

The FCC site details scams delivered through text message or by robo-call, some of them posing as government health officials.

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Take these 5 steps to protect yourself against identy fraud