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Scam Alert

Con Artists Target Older Victims

5 schemes and scams you may find hard to resist

3. Loan intimidation

The subject of 9,968 complaints, loan intimidation scams usually come by phone, but sometimes email. Fraudsters claiming to be with law enforcement, a law firm or a government agency threaten arrest or legal action for a supposed delinquent loan. To make their ruse convincing, they often already have targets' personal information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates. The IC3 reports that many victims say they completed online applications for loans and credit cards before the calls began. Overall, these scams netted more than $8 million in 2011.

Losses to the 50-plus: $3.5 million

Men

50-59: 4th in complaints, losses of $570,000
60-plus:
5th in complaints, losses of $1 million

Women

50-59: 4th in complaints, losses of $970,000
60-plus:
5th in complaints, losses of $927,000

Among both genders, 30-somethings filed the most complaints and those 40 to 49 lost the most money, nearly $2 million.

4. Romance

Fueling 5,663 complaints, cyber-romance scams snagged not only hearts but $50.4 million from their victims. You know their MO: Once they woo targets met on dating websites and in chat rooms, they request wire transfers supposedly to help with a personal hardship, pay for an airline ticket for a meeting or meet some other heart-rending expense. The IC3 averaged 15 complaints a day, with per-victim losses of $8,900.

Losses to the 50-plus: $34.3 million

Men

50-59: 2nd in complaints, losses of $3.6 million
60-plus:
5th in complaints, losses of $2.6 million

Women

50-59: 1st in complaints, losses of $18.8 million
60-plus:
3rd in complaints, losses of $9.3 million

Women age 40 and older are the most targeted — and victimized.

5. Auto auctions

Generating 4,066 complaints, auto auction scams cost victims nearly $8.3 million. Crooks advertise a vehicle at a great price, claiming they must sell it quickly because they are moving, being deployed by the military or experiencing hard times. They request immediate full or partial payment through a third party, usually part of the scam ring. Of course, it turns out the vehicle doesn't exist or isn't theirs to sell. Sometimes scammers add credibility by posting photos stolen from legitimate auto auction websites. The per-victim loss averages about $2,000.

How the 50-plus fared: Losses of $2.6 million

Men

50-59: 3rd place in complaints, losses of $1 million
60-plus:
5th in complaints, losses of $884,000

Women

50-59: 4th in complaints, losses of $448,000
60-plus:
5th place tie with those under 20 in complaints, losses of $257,000

Those 40 to 49 of both genders lost the most, nearly $2.1 million. Women in their 20s and men in their 40s filed the most complaints.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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