The check for $4,870 took Patty Remmell by surprise. Remmell, 66, expected to receive $1,217.50 as a 50% deposit on a writing project she was completing for a new contact who had reached out to her on LinkedIn. Then the contact sent an email explaining that his organization wanted her to complete a second project and had processed payment for both together. Satisfied, Remmell deposited the check and finished work on the first project. A few days later, her contact emailed to say the company had changed direction, and he asked her to refund the overpayment. “I freaked out,” she recalls. “I don’t like monetary messes. It makes me nervous.”

Her bank account showed that the funds from the deposited check were available to withdraw, so she sent the organization $2,435 for the canceled project via CashApp at her contact’s request. Then he asked her for another $1,217.50, half the payment for the first project. When he kept nagging for the payment, without acknowledging that she had submitted the project or sending feedback on her work, she grew suspicious and asked a group of colleagues for a gut check. “It’s a scam,” one responded.

Sure enough, the check bounced a few days later. “I’m now overdrawn in my savings account by over $3,000 that I can’t cover,” she says. “I feel like an idiot.”

Remmell isn’t alone. The FBI estimates that seniors lose more than $3 billion each year to scammers. In 2020, the Better Business Bureau saw a 25% increase in scams reported by consumers because…

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