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‘Prevention efforts can help’ protect seniors from epidemic of being victims of fraud

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Scams targeting seniors have become an epidemic, warns UVA Health geriatrician Laurie Archbald-Pannone, MD, whose patients frequently tell her about becoming fraud victims.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that Americans ages 60 and older were scammed out of more than $3 billion in 2023, according to an article written by Archbald-Pannone and published Monday by The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization that shares articles from academic experts.

Archbald-Pannone notes that whole call centers are often devoted to targeting seniors. But she has a host of helpful tips for how seniors can prevent themselves from falling prey to scammers and what to do if they suspect they are the victim of fraud.

She recommends that seniors take a moment to do an online search when they receive any unsolicited offer to verify its legitimacy. They should be particularly wary, she said, of any offer or email that claims urgency and requires immediate action, especially online.

She also encourages seniors not to be embarrassed and report what happened if they fall prey to a scam. The tactics of elder fraud change quickly, and it can be particularly hard for seniors to keep up with scammers’ techniques and technology, Archbald-Pannone said.

A nationally recognized advocate for seniors’ well-being, Archbald-Pannone hopes her simple tips will help ensure that people’s golden years are not tarnished by the fraud epidemic.

“As with any epidemic, ‘infection control’ tools can help us limit the spread,” she writes. “Much like vaccines create immunity against viruses, prevention efforts can help people build up their defenses to avoid fraud.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.