Older Americans are cheated out of around $3 billion every year. A lot of money is lost around the holidays. Scammers and con artists target seniors for several reasons. They’re more likely to have money, to be more trusting, to be polite and listen when they should hang up. In some cases, they’re more likely to have memory issues.
Seniors don’t have to be victims. Here are some of the most common cons and a few steps you can take to avoid being cheated by them.
Seasonal Phone Scams On Seniors
In the typical phone scam, someone will call or text you pretending to be someone else. They could be posing as a grandchild in trouble, as the IRS, Social Security, Medicare, or as a utility company. No matter which of these they try, three things will be true. They’ll say you need to send money, you need to do it now and they’ll try to scare you.
If they’re posing as a grandchild — or as someone who knows your grandchild — they’ll insist that you not call their parents. They’ll say there’s some kind of trouble, from medical problems, car trouble or jail. The caller will need cash right away. If you have your grandchild’s phone number, hang up and call them right away. If not, hang up and call their parents right away, even if the caller told you not to. In the vast majority of cases, the whole thing is a set-up and no one is in trouble.
If they pose as the IRS or another agency, they’ll demand immediate payment and threaten some kind of action. This threat gives them away. Never give out your social security number or any bank information, and don’t send any money. The IRS always contacts taxpayers by mail first, and other agencies would never insist on immediate payment for anything.
The oldest of phone scams on seniors is still around: salespeople calling and using high pressure tactics to get you to buy something you don’t need. The fix? Just get good at hanging up on people. Trust us…they’re just going to move on to the next phone number.
Email Scams On Seniors
If you have an email address, you’re probably already getting fake emails. Often, these look like they come from your bank or credit card company and they often look and sound very official.
First, don’t click on any links, ever. Just don’t. Email scams often involve “malware” — malicious software designed to give the scammer access to your computer, phone and everything on it. Clicking on a link allows the malware to be downloaded to your device. Your first line of defense is literally at your fingertips: don’t click on any links.
Second, check a couple of things. Look at the email address from which it was sent. (Go to the name of the sender in your email window, and click the tiny, downward-pointing arrow next to the name. It will show you the email address. You can also hit “reply” and see what email address it’s going to.)
If you bank at First American Bank, a legitimate email would look like this: email@example.com. But a fake one would look completely different. The “domain” (the company part of the email address, like firstamericanbank.com) will be something else entirely.
Also, a legitimate email from a company you do business with will never ask you for any of your information or for any kind of payment. If an email asks you to call a number, go to the company’s real website and see if the number matches. If it doesn’t, call the real number and tell them about the email.
Again, whatever you do, don’t click on any links and don’t call any phone numbers.
Website and Shopping Scams on Seniors
Especially now, more of us are shopping online. Online shopping means there are more bad actors online with fake websites. These sites are designed for one of two things: to fool you into giving up private information, or to download malicious software onto your computer. In either case, it’s almost always for identity theft — or just regular theft.
Always make sure you’re on a legitimate website. The domain name or web address should match the company name (for example, target.com). Also, be sure the website is secure. The web address should always begin with the letters “https.” which indicates it’s a secure site. Most web browsers will also warn you if you’re on a site that isn’t secure.
Keep the software that runs your computer (the “operating system”) up to date. When your computer tells you there’s an update, follow the directions and install it. Those updates almost always include new security protection to prevent problems.
Don’t ever give anyone else your log-in information (your username and password) for your computer., for social media, email or for any websites you use to shop online.
Avoid using obvious or easy-to-guess passwords, and at least once a year, change your passwords on everything. (Be sure to make a note of them somewhere in case you forget them, though.)
Be Safe, Not Sorry.
Just knowing that there are people out there who want to take advantage of older folks is a first step in the right direction. Following the other steps we mentioned can help keep you, your identity, your accounts and your devices safe and secure, through the holidays and all year long.
Contact Elder Care
ElderCare 4 Families is happy to help provide elder care to seniors you know wherever they call home. Complimentary assessments are offered with no obligation by Elder Care, Personalized care is offered from 1 hour up to 24//7. With over 39 years of elderly care experience in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area, trust Elder Care to care for the seniors in your life. Call us at 502-244-8446 to start receiving elder care services in Louisville.