Seniors have long been the targets of scammers. With every advance in technology, another door opens to make it easier for them to commit financial fraud. The scammers are perfectly tuned into the vulnerabilities of seniors. Most of us are not as savvy as the younger generations when it comes to technology. Let me tell you about Barb, who, at 69, still held a top position. She is nothing even close to the stereotype old geezer who got stuck in the previous century.
Financial fraud victim
Barb is a well-educated woman, comfortable with emails, social media etc. However, like many older people, she loves her children and would do anything for them — and that is what scammers bargain on. A few years ago, she received a phone call from a man who pretended to be her son. He quickly explained that an accident left him with a broken nose, causing him to sound unlike himself.
After an accident and a DUI arrest, he desperately needed almost $2,000 to pay for the other driver’s car damage. As the scammers expected, she wired the money without hesitation. Soon after the first call came another one. This time the caller said he was her son’s attorney, saying her son needed another $2,000 for bail.
He begged her not to cause problems by calling his client’s wife. After wiring the second $2,000, she felt guilty and decided to call her daughter-in-law. That’s when she learned that her son was at home and safe, and she was $4,000 poorer.
Scammers choose their fraud victims carefully
They are aware that many seniors have retirement savings. They also know that most parents will bend over backward to help their children in need. The only way to avoid being a victim of financial fraud is to learn as much as possible about potential scams and how to recognize and avoid them.
Fraud by Phishing
Scammers use this process to steal personal details. Their goal is to get you to give them your Social Security Number and details about your driver’s license, bank account, etc. They are very crafty in the ways they solicit such information. Therefore, never provide personal information in response to an email, even if it appears to come from your bank.
Once the scammers have your details, they can open credit cards, apply for loans and clear your bank accounts.
Make sure your passwords are strong, and don’t share them. Keep in mind that secure websites have “HTTPS” and a lock icon in their address. In contrast, insecure sites’ addresses start with “HTTP.” Avoid even opening a suspicious-looking email, and never follow any links or open attachments if you don’t trust the sender.
Fraud by Skimming
Skimming is the process of siphoning the data on your bank or credit card at the store’s payment terminal or an ATM. Scammers find a way to attach a device to pay points that copy your information when they swipe your card. Avoid handing your card over to the cashier. Insert or swipe it yourself, and shield your hand when you enter your PIN.
Yay! You’ve won the lottery!
Don’t you believe it. When you get that phone call or email to share the news that you’re the winner of millions, your excitement might make you drop your guard. Other ways to rid you of your money is promising massive amounts of money for your help to recover an inheritance, clear a check, or recover an expensive object. STEER CLEAR!
The scammers check obituaries and then target widows. For example, in one case, they phoned a widow soon after the death of her husband. The caller pretended to be from a marketing company and informed her that her husband was the winner in a competition to win a car. When she shared the news of his recent death, they said if she paid the taxes on the vehicle, they would deliver the prize to her. She suspected no foul play and sent them the money. Needless to say, no car arrived.
Pay no attention to unsolicited messages and ignore promises of objects or money in exchange for your cooperation. Check the source of the call even if you recognize the name.
Don’t let your generosity make you a fraud victim
Phone calls or emails from seemingly legitimate charities could play on your generosity. One of their tricks is to ask for donations and promising to provide receipts for amounts significantly higher than what you donated. Thereby, you could claim more significant tax credits. Don’t fall for this one; you could end up with a zero balance in your bank account and problems with the revenue service. To avoid being a victim, ask the person to provide the registered charitable tax number and then check their status before donating any money.
Pyramid schemes — don’t ignore the alarm bells
Despite how exciting it may sound, your common sense will cause alarm bells to go off when anybody offers you massive returns on small investments. Please don’t ignore them. Sooner or later, you’re sure to be solicited to join telemarketing, door-to-door sales or online sales scams. They typically involve buying and selling products and getting more people to sign on and become part of a massive referral-based pyramid scheme.
Beware, seniors are often the targets because they are usually concerned about their financial futures. Never hand over money or make snap decisions on business investments. If you are not allowed time to perform due diligence, it is sure to be a scam.
Take time to check the validity of calls and offers. If Barb had just asked at which police station they held her son, she might still have the $4,000 she so eagerly sent to help him. Take the time to check anti-scam or scam-alert websites to stay up-to-date with new tricks of the financial fraud trade. Let’s teach the scammers to stay away from old geezers like us!