Scammers have long deceived people into parting with their money, investments, and properties. With advancements in instant communication techniques, scammers can target hundreds or even thousands of people at once, making their work even easier, leaving more vulnerable populations at greater risk. In fact, fraud against seniors is estimated at over $3 billion a year. Seniors are often targeted because they are more likely to be isolated, have larger savings, and tend to be more polite and trusting towards strangers, making them extremely vulnerable.
Most fraudulent schemes targeting seniors are perpetrated through phone calls, emails, and social media interactions. These scams may involve stealing credit card information, selling fake health products, offering fraudulent investments, or even making false romantic ploys, as was the case of 80 suspects recently indicted for fraud by the FBI.
What can you or your loved one do to avoid falling victim to these scam artists?
Read on as we share seven tips to hold scammers at bay.
1. Block Unsolicited Communications
Many fraudulent schemes employ mass mailing or robotic calls to random people. You can preemptively screen out many of these scams by blocking them from reaching you. One easy way is to opt out of direct mail services. Automated calls, also known as “robocalls” can be blocked by anti-robocall programs offered by phone service providers or by installing call blocking apps.
Also, remember not to volunteer your email or phone number to services that ask online. Often times, websites or brands will ask for your contact information or to sign up for their news and offers. Unless you are interacting with a trusted brand and know they will not sell your information, it’s best to avoid giving out your info. Use services like the Better Business Bureau to determine the safety of brands. When fraudsters can’t get your contact information, you are safe from their potential scams
2. Know Your Risks
More than half of all financial fraud targeted at seniors are committed by strangers. To stay safe, be careful about the information you share and talk to your friends any family about any new people in your life to help determine their intentions. Be especially careful about online friendships and communication because it’s impossible to tell who you are really chatting with. Be wary of people you do not know who send you friend, chat, or email requests.
This can get complicated when searching for a romantic partner on dating sites, so be sure to do your due diligence and confirm the identity of whomever you’re talking to. Try to communicate via video chat to avoid impersonators and scammers. Cybercriminals are known to pose as someone else or feign a love interest with their victim to gain access their personal information, bank accounts, money, and more.
3. Develop a Financial Security Plan Early
Take the time to set up a power of attorney and healthcare directive as soon as possible. This will ensure that a trusted family member will be in charge of your finances if you are incapacitated.
Another way to help protect your loved one is to set up a separate account for regular expenses and move the majority of their assets to more secure accounts that require things like second authorization or offer usage notifications. Account notifications let you know when money is being debited from an account in real time to help stop fraudulent transactions.
4. Stay Social
Isolated seniors are more susceptible to a scammer’s charm. Staying connected with friends and family and connecting with your community through social events can help prevent isolation and gives you a resource to help determine the intentions of the new people you meet.
If your loved one has to remain indoors due to health issues, call and pay them regular visits to inquire about their affairs so they don’t feel lonely. This will help you identify a scam in progress and put an end to it.
While it is okay to make new friends online or offline, it is important to approach these relationships cautiously. Trust develops over time and anyone who regularly demands money or gifts or claims they need assistance through emergency after emergency should be highly scrutinized.
If you notice a sudden change in behavior in your loved one or if they begin talking about a new person in their life requiring financial assistance or gifts, talk with them as soon as possible to learn more to prevent potential fraud.
5. Safeguard Your Financial and Personal Information
Disregard any calls or emails asking for your banking information, social security number, or credit card details. These requests are from scammers who are looking to steal your money. Many of these phone calls and emails may appear to be official, but you should not respond. Rather, use the contact information on the back of your credit card or bank statement to reach out to your financial institutions if you have questions.
Regularly check and empty your mailbox to ensure your mail and private information does not fall into the wrong hands. Also, avoid posting personal details about yourself and your family on public forums and online communities to avoid impersonators. The more swindlers know about you, the easier they can use it to take advantage of you or others.
6. Take Financial Decisions Slowly
Any call or directive demanding you make an immediate payment or wire a certain sum of money (even for something listed as an emergency) should be ignored. Even if the caller appears to be familiar or is a friend you know from online and have never met, you should have an opportunity to verify the situation by talking to your financial institutions in detail about the request. For appeals that may not be fraudulent, take your time to confirm the identity those making the request and get a second opinion from your family or friends about such deals.
7. Ignore Surprise Wins, Gifts, or Pleas
Fraudulent emails that inform you that you’ve won a big lottery or gift from unknown friends or family should be deleted and ignored. These are clever schemes created by scammers to get access to your banking or identification information. Never exchange money or property with such a sender.
Following the tips above can help you identify and avoid many scams that are targeted at seniors. While you it can be hard to anticipate every fraudulent scheme, constant vigilance and caution when dealing with financial and relationship issues can prevent you from falling victim to scams.
Do you have a relative or friend who would benefit from this information? Let them know how to protect themselves by sharing this article.