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A scam is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.” To put it simple, it’s any act in which someone tries to deceptively separate you from your hard-earned money. If you have ever fallen victim to a scam of some sort, don’t feel bad, you aren’t alone. In fact, according a True Link Financial survey, older Americans lose $12.76 billion annually due to fraud or various scams. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take as an older individual to protect your information and your money from those who want to scam you. They are as follows:

Understand How Scams Work

There are many avenues used by scammers today. You can be scammed online, over the phone or in person. You need to understand that it is never a good idea to give out your personal information over the phone, be too willing to trust online offers or follow links in emails. Educate yourself on the types of scams going around so you don’t easily fall victim to them if you happen to be approached in such a manner. Read on to learn more…

Tech Support Scams a Huge Racket

One of the biggest consumer scams is the tech support scam. Microsoft said some 3.3 million people, some of them seniors, were victimized by a tech support scam in 2105. The scam usually involves a phone call. The person on the other end will tell you they are with Windows or Microsoft tech support. They will say your computer has a virus they have detected on their end. You are told to go to a specific website and follow the instructions. In some of these cases, the scam was so elaborate, there was even a dummy screen showing a virus being eliminated. In reality, what is happening is malware is being installed on your computer that will allow the scammers to steal your data, passwords and usernames. Keep in mind, Microsoft nor its partners will call you and tell you there is a virus on your computer. If you get an email saying the same thing, don’t ever click on the link.

The Silent Call Scam

Another common scam happens when you answer the phone only to hear dead air. You say hello, but there is no one on the other end. This is a robo call designed to make thousands of calls daily to build a list of active numbers, which will then be targeted for various scams. One way to avoid being added to a list is to have caller ID installed on your landline. Then, you can avoid picking up if the number is unfamiliar.

IRS Imposter Scam

According to The Fraud Watch Network and The AARP Foundation, the number one reported scam is the IRS fraud. You get a call from someone claiming to be the IRS. They explain that you owe back taxes and need to pay them immediately to avoid additional fines and/or arrest or other legal action. They need your personal info to take care of the issue. Keep in mind, the IRS will never call you, so anyone claiming to be them is lying. The real IRS will only communicate with you via the U.S. Postal Service.

Keep the following tips in mind to avoid common scams aimed at stealing your hard-earned income.