Scams targeting seniors are a persistent problem. Here’s more about how and your loved ones can fight back.
Whether in the newspaper, on TV, or from a friend, it seems we’ve all heard stories of senior scammers in search of personal identity details and, ultimately, money. Typical tales may include a foreign prince, a large inheritance or lottery winnings. But not all scams fit the usual mold, and even the brightest of us can fall prey.
Emily Lutz, Certified Professional Daily Money Manager from Liberty Paperwork Solutions, paid a visit to Crane’s Mill and shared her expertise on the subject of senior scams. Emily provided an enlightening presentation, and members of the audience shared personal experiences in this eye-opening session.
We were on hand, and we’re happy to share some of Emily’s tips with you:
In 2012, 12,600,000 scams were reported in the US alone. A startling 50% of those were perpetrated agains senior citizens.
Scammers target seniors for a number of reasons including that they are usually home alone, and may be more friendly towards strangers than other age groups. They may seek to obtain a person’s bank information, credit card number, Social Security Number, pin number or account passwords.
Scammers tend to operate through four main channels: on the phone, in the mail, on the computer and in person. Here are some tips sot keep you well-equipped to defend yourself and your loved ones.
On the phone, seniors may find themselves in the position of “having to make a quick decision.” This is what the scammer wants, a situation in which their target needs to act quickly to avoid consequences.
Emily shared this jarring example of a phone scam: a person claiming to be from the county sheriff’s office calls, asserting that you, John Smith, haven’t responded to multiple jury duty summonses. They’re coming to pick you up. Unless, of course, they have the wrong “John Smith”, which you can prove to them over the phone by sharing your Social Security Number.
Other popular phone scams include urgent calls from utility companies needing prompt payment or family members in danger needing money wired immediately. Again, the consistent factor is urgency—the person needs you to make a quick decision. To avoid falling victim, ask the person for their information and let them know you will call back. Then do some research by asking friends or family members about the situation.
If all else fails, simply hang up. If it is something truly important, they will call back.
In the mail, you may find a number of official-looking correspondences that are, in fact, simply pieces of junk mail. Examples may include sweepstakes winnings or other urgent notices. A great way to I.D. these suspect mailings is to show a friend, neighbor or family member.
Another important tip from Emily regarding the mail: be sure to shred or tear documents containing your personal information before discarding.
On the computer, it is important to be cautious when opening emails. If you see something that looks suspicious, the best course of action is not to open the email or click on any links included within.
In person, someone may come to your door asking for a donation. Even if their cause seems legitimate, it’s always best to ask for literature that you can review. That way, you can take a look at the material at your leisure and make an informed decision. Again, if you suspect something is amiss, reach out to a family member or friend and ask for their help.
Emily discussed another example involving a contractor knocking on a person’s door to alert them of a needed repair. The person claims they can care of it “quickly and cheaply” but it’s something that needs to be done that very day. In a case such as this, if they are a legitimate contractor and there is a legitimate need for a home repair, they will leave their information along with a list of references. Be sure to get a second opinion from someone you trust and contact the company’s references prior to moving forward.
For more information on different scams and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones, you can visit this page on the FBI website.