Did you know that around 3.5 million seniors fall victim to scams every year? Scammers target easy and vulnerable prey like seniors because they believe older adults are more trusting. Seniors tend to feel more depressed and bored with life after retirement and will usually get carried away when shown some attention, even if it’s from strangers online.
Scammers understand the phycology of elders and would prey on them using different tricks that centre around emotional cues. If you have elderly parents or grandparents, it’s important to protect them from scams and not just assume they can’t fall prey. As leading experts in the Information Technology (IT) industry, we’ve provided tips on how you can protect seniors from scams and help them stay safe online.
Types Of Scams & Frauds Elderly Parents May Fall Prey To
Scam schemes come in different ways, and scammers are constantly developing new tricks to swindle older adults. However, there are certain well-known types of scams that elders often fall prey to. It’s essential to know about these scams and educate your parents and grandparents about them to keep them protected.
Requests to wire money
This occurs when the scammers call or email and ask you to wire money to make a purchase, claim a prize, confirm a lottery, earn an inheritance, or anything else. Sometimes scammers call or email from a familiar phone number or email and disguise their voice. As a rule of thumb, elders should never wire money to anyone they don’t know. And even when the request comes from someone they know, they should contact a relative to confirm the story.
Calls from government agencies
Fraudsters may pretend to be calling or emailing from government agencies, claiming you’re owing some money and may get arrested if you don’t pay up. Seniors should ignore such information, and if by any chance they’re unsure whether they owe the government, they should contact the agency separately for confirmation.
When your elderly parents or grandparents receive calls from groups, they can’t remember having contact with asking for their personal information, they should never disclose them. If they are bothered that it could be a legitimate request for information, they should hang up, check the official number for the group that supposedly called and dial it directly to confirm the request.
Emergency calls from the grandkids
Fraudsters know a lot about people and can call seniors pretending to be a grandchild in dire need of cash. They may know some basic details about the family, such as the grandkids’ names. Whenever anyone calls claiming to be a grandchild, tell your parents to ask personal questions that only their grandchildren can answer. Alternatively, they can hang up and call their grandkid directly just to avoid being swindled.
Limited time offers
Scammers believe seniors are loaded with retirement cash and are always looking for opportunities to steal from it. They may call, email, or text your parents or grandparents and present a limited-time money-making opportunity. Warn your elderly ones not to fall prey to such schemes, and simply ignore them.
High-return investments with no risks
While there are established investment schemes that can help elders earn passively from their cash, they should avoid being carried away by no-risk investments. Every investment has some degree of risk, and only scammers promise investments with no risks. Also, they should only contact the investment company through their official websites and check for their details, including reviews, to know whether they’re genuine.
Free dinner or lunches
Mail or text offers to attend free dinners or free lunch investment seminars are usually sales pitches for fraudulent or high-fee, unrealistic investments. Inform your parents not to attend these events and stay safe. Attending these seminars brings them a step closer to falling prey to such schemes.
Let’s Protect Elderly Parents from Scams & Frauds
Based on surveys, scammers defraud seniors of more than $3 billion each year, while the average loss per senior amounts to around $34,200. It’s our duty to protect elders from scams as falling prey to one can lead to depression, anxiety disorders, and sometimes death. By educating elders about scammers’ tricks, they can immediately recognize a scam attempt and stay safe.
Know The Key Signs Of An Email Scam
Email scams have certain key signs through which elders can recognize them. Some of these signs of email scams are when the email:
- is “urgent” or has a deadline
- comes from a suspicious sender
- contains lots of spelling mistakes
- carries a fancy or royal-sounding title, e.g., Sir Williams Thompson,” or “Dr. Frank P. Estes.”
Don’t Trust Anyone That Asks For Money Over The Phone
Whether it’s a call from individuals, groups, or government agencies, inform your parents and grandparents that anyone who asks for money or personal information over the phone should not be trusted. They shouldn’t wire transfer any fund to anyone, especially when they claim the money is to claim a prize, confirm a lottery, or earn an inheritance.
Don’t Trust Automated Messages
Automated calls or messages requesting money should not be trusted. These scammers often disguise themselves as a family member and claim to be incarcerated or that a loved one is incarcerated. They then proceed to ask for bail payment or any kind of legal payment via transfer. Seniors should ignore such calls and rather contact family members directly for confirmation.
Don’t Trust Anyone Asking For Gift Cards
One very common way scammers request money is via gift cards, especially scammers from foreign countries. They may claim that the senior or a loved one owes a debt and ask for payment via gift cards. Inform your elderly ones that no government agency or business will ask for any payment via gift cards. So whenever such requests are made, they’re coming from scammers.
Ignore And Shred Unsolicited Mail
When unsolicited mails are sent, warn your seniors to scrutinize them for any spelling errors, as errors are a major sign of scam mails. Whether it’s the mail they receive through UPS, USPS, or FedEx, scam mails often differ in their tone and are usually full of spelling errors. You should shred such mails to avoid future reoccurrence and to keep your elderly parents safe.
Use A Secure Password
Ideally, passwords should be changed every month to maintain top security. The passwords should contain special characters like @, $, #, and &, which makes them stronger than merely using letters and numbers. Simple passwords like 1111 can be guessed easily by scammers, which is why a strong, secure password is crucial.
Things To Do If Your Elderly Parents Is Being Scammed
If your elderly parents fall prey to a scam, handling the situation with empathy is important to avoid further complications. Blaming them or being harsh can impact their emotional well-being and possibly result in depression. The best thing to do in such a situation is to either ignore the loss, hang up, or contact the authorities.
Ignore It or Hang Up
If you’re lucky to intervene before the scam is complete, hang up the phone immediately or ignore the email and inform your parents why it’s from a scammer. You should also set your elderly parents’ email to direct all messages from unknown senders to the spam folder. Also, calls from unknown persons should be ignored and filtered to avoid reoccurring.
Contact Your Bank or Authorities
Suppose your elderly parents got scammed, the first thing to do is to report the scam to the authorities by calling 911 and reaching out to the financial institution. If it’s a phone scam, report the phone number to the authorities too, as it will be very useful during the investigation.
Help parents monitor their financial accounts
One of the best ways to protect elderly parents from scams is by helping them monitor their financial accounts. You can help them set up their financial accounts with strong passwords if they don’t have one yet or optimize the strength of their already-created accounts.
Also, help them enable alerts on their bank and credit card accounts in order to regularly get email or text notifications of the activity on their accounts.
If they feel they can manage their accounts by themselves, inform them to check their accounts from time to time instead of waiting for the account statement at the end of the month.
Make sure to follow up on their accounts and credit reports from time to time for any suspicious activity. You also want to create a “my Social Security” account at SSA.gov so as to prevent scammers from setting up one in their names and altering bank routing numbers for deposits.
Warn your parents about investment fraud
Investment frauds are some of the leading tricks of scammers. These schemes promise a high return on investment and even offer to help seniors manage their retirement accounts. Unfortunately, once they grant them the opportunity or enroll in the investment, they eventually steal their cash.
Although there are legitimate investment opportunities that help retirees earn passively from their retirement funds, however, these only come from well-established companies and do not have unrealistic expectations.
If your elderly parents are unsure about the legitimacy of the scheme, inform them to ask important questions such as the licenses the company holds, how they get paid, and if they have references. They should also look up the track record of the company and its reputation before considering investing with them.
Warn parents about exploitation by family members
Strangers aren’t the only ones who may attempt to scam your elderly parents. Sometimes the fraud may come from family, friends, or caregivers who know the financial status of the senior. It’s essential to warn your parents about those close to them and to avoid disclosing information such as passwords, account balances, etc.
Another effective way to protect your elderly parents and grandparents from scams is to have a power of attorney. Doing this will help your parents decide who makes financial decisions for them, especially when they can no longer do it on their own. The attorney will also be able to make financial decisions and transactions on behalf of your parents, which is why it’s crucial to find a trustworthy professional. Having a power of attorney while your elderly ones are mentally competent helps them choose the right person (or people) and saves them from making a costly mistake.
Lastly, make sure to keep in touch with your parents and grandparents and tell them to ask you anything they’re unsure about. Doing this helps them to feel safe and avoid making any costly decisions. Inform them whenever you hear about a new scam trick so they can stay safe ahead of time.
Written By – Adam Pittman