It's Summer, and Scammers Are Calling Seniors

mature man sitting in chair with mobile phone

Seniors are among the most common victims of con artists. According to New York State AARP Director Beth Finkel, older Americans had $2.9 billion stolen from them in the most recent year for which data is available, and the America's demographic shift toward an older population is only likely worsen the problem.

To protect seniors, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently issued an alert about five common phone scams, which typically spike in the summer. Criminals everywhere are using these and similar tricks to bilk you, your parents or grandparents and other older people you love.

Preying on Emotion, Hope and Respect of Authority

All five scams appeal to your emotions. One trick involves the caller impersonating your grandchild and asking you to wire money to help with a made-up financial crisis, like a car breakdown, medical expenses or even a night in jail. The nastiest part is that, thanks to social media, con artists can easily learn the names of your grandkids and details about their whereabouts, making the scenario sound realistic.

Another scam preys on your financial hopes. Scammers will tell you that you've won a lottery and ask you to pay fees and taxes associated with your "winnings." The criminals walk away with your cash and bank-account information that they'll use to take more money.

The most popular scams appeal to your respect of authority. Criminals pretend to be court officers, Internal Revenue agents or utility-company representatives and demand payment for overdue balances, fines, missing jury duty or other infractions. Unsuspecting seniors may accede to those demands by sending money via a prepaid debit card or by money-transfer services.

What You Can and Can't Trust

With these scams, caller ID won't necessarily save you, as con artists have learned how to trick the service by spoofing their originating phone number. As a result, you might see "Internal Revenue Service" or the name of your local utility in your caller ID box, even if it's a fraudulent call.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%A better defense is to never to give out information on a call that you receive. If you believe that the phone call is legitimate, get a name, end the call, look up the real customer service number yourself, and call back whoever the caller claimed to be to ensure that you were talking to a legitimate representative. If the person or company denies having called you, then you'll know that you avoided becoming the victim of a phone scam.

Being vigilant about your personal information has never been more important, yet many senior citizens don't know about protections that younger people take for granted. Make sure you, your parents, grandparents and other older people know about these tactics.

You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google+.