As beautiful as this world can be, it can also be very cruel. Often criminals choose to violate those who they deem the most vulnerable and senior adults are often the target. Scams range from phone scams to cyber scams, but more often than not, every scam targeting seniors has one motive: to steal your money.
Why Senior Adults?
Thieves assume that older people live alone, may be more trusting of others, and that they have a fat nest egg they’ve been saving just for them to come along and steal. Financial scams are more than just costly. They can be life-changing especially for a senior who may be retired. Here are 4 scam types to be on the lookout for to protect yourself and your family.
Cyber Scams: Today’s society relies heavily on the internet and more than ever we are all susceptible to cyber scams. This is especially true for seniors who may not be as technologically savvy as younger users. Cyber predators are everywhere and they depend on a lack of online discernment. We must all be cautious and vigilant online to minimize our vulnerability.
You might have received an email that looks legit. But it could be a scammer asking you to wire funds or send credit card information. The email could appear from your utility company, a real estate agent, a business you know or a friend or family member. The correspondence could look just like a legitimate email from any of these individuals or entities. But be on alert if the e-mails are requesting funds or personal information.
Tips: Always call the number you know to be real to double check the request. Don’t use numbers provided in the e-mail. Don’t open attachments and click on links. It could be a hacker waiting to retrieve (steal) personal information from your computer or device.
Phone Scams: Phone scams are old school cons, but unfortunately they still work and with a new com-ponent—cell phone scams, You often see phone scams in the form of bill collection, prizes and awards, free trials, charity donations, credit and loan arrangements and travel packages. Don’t fall for it and hang up immediately. There is a way for scammers to access private data the longer you remain on the phone and engage in conversation. With cell phones, just answering the phone could leave vulnerable.
Tips: If you answer the phone and it’s a robocall or a pre-recorded message that sounds like a live person but isn’t, hang up immediately. Don’t press 1 to speak to anyone. Just hang up! With cell phones, if you don’t recognize the number, you might want to think twice about answering the phone at all. There have been a numerous scams with cell phone numbers called the “one ring scam.” Scammers allow the phone to ring once to generate a missed call hoping you would return the call. When you call back, they may ask you to hold all while racking up hefty per minute charge including international fees. Don’t answer and don’t call back.
Mail Scams: According to the FTC, for years a sweepstakes mail scam was swindling seniors out of their money. Victims would receive letters that appeared official with seals, stamps and identification numbers that would state that they have won millions of dollars. The only thing keeping the victim away from their millions was $20 dollars. They were asked to send $20-$30 by cash, check or money order. However, only the scam artists were getting rich, having said to have collected more than $25 million dollars using this scheme to target and victimize senior adults.
Tips: If you are asked to pay before you collect your winning, more than likely this is a scam. You shouldn’t have to pay taxes, shipping and handling or processing fees, so don’t believe them. Don’t send them money or provide personal financial information like checking account numbers or credit card numbers.
Identity Theft: Identity theft is one of the worse fraudulent scenarios to handle. They are an absolute nightmare to clean up and that’s after your entire financial wellbeing has been jeopardized. It’s also very difficult to track down the thief.
Tips: Never give out your social security information to anyone you don’t know. Never provide this information over the phone. Shred all financial documents, sensitive mail and credit card solicitations. Monitor your card carefully. Be aware of the wait staff at restaurants and salespeople. Do not allow people to copy your drivers licensed. They will then have instant access to your address which means easy access to your mail. Have all checks delivered to a PO Box or lock box.
Above are just a few of the numerous ways thieves are targeting seniors. While we can’t prevent always prevent people from taking advantage of others, we can perform our due diligence to try and prevent ourselves from becoming victims.