Most of us would pay attention if we thought we were being contacted by a loved one, Medicare, the IRS, a representative of the Federal Government or law enforcement. We would want to be cooperative, share whatever information is being requested, and respond politely and promptly to whatever inquiries are being made. However, it is important to suspend these instincts until we are sure that the callers are really representing the organizations or services they say they are.
One of the most common imposter scams targeting older Coloradans is the grandparent scam. This most often occurs when a young person calls the potential victim pretending to be a grandchild. The caller claims they are in a foreign country and have been arrested for drunk driving or detained for some other reason and need money sent to them in order to return home safely. Setting up a family password can be helpful in cases like this. The call recipient can ask for the family password to help verify the caller is really their relative. Family passwords should be a phrase each family member knows but that isn't too obvious or can be guessed easily. It's important not to share the family password with others or online.
There also are instances where older Coloradans receive a call supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) telling them that they owe additional taxes and using various threats to intimidate them into sending money. Still another imposter scam includes a call from “the government”, generally from a Washington, D.C. area code, informing the potential victim that they’ve been selected for a free government grant. All they have to do is pay a specified amount of money in advance for the taxes and fees to “release” the grant funds.
Be wary of any caller that asks for your Social Security number, demands immediate or advanced payments, or threatens you with arrest or legal action. And recognize the red-flag payment methods, such as wiring money or purchasing pre-paid cards.
If you believe you have been victimized by an imposter scam or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here. You may also wish to contact AARP Foundation ElderWatch by calling 1-800-222-4444, telephone option 2.