In this day of age, the elderly or anyone over 65 can be susceptible to scammers, thieves, or con artists of all types. Many will prey on the weak or vulnerable because they tend to be easy targets. Seniors are sometimes unaware of scammers because of their unique way of sounding trustworthy or someone they would never suspect would cause any harm to them. They often feel lonely, leaving them with a higher chance of being scammed. Con artists may play on the emotions of the elderly. Technology can play a part in the scammer’s agenda too. Especially that some seniors are not attuned to how the internet can fool older adults. Con artists may encourage seniors to sign up for services that are either unnecessary or cost more than they expected. Below are just a handful of ways to prevent being scammed.
What to do to prevent scams
- Never send money through a wire transfer to someone you have never met face-to-face: This does happen all too often. Scammers may approach an elderly person with an elaborate sob story of needing money for a hurt loved one. They may even follow a senior to the ATM or hangout around banks, watching for venerable individuals so they can ask for a few bucks to several hundred dollars. If you don’t know them personally, and can’t verify that the cause is legit, then walk away. . Do not accept cash-only deals or high-pressure sales tactics. Always read the fine print on contracts and make sure you understand what the terms are.
- Set up safeguards at the bank: For those who have parents who are elderly and concerned on how they are spending their money, you can help them by setting up a spending limit attached to their debit card. Of course, you would need their approval, but it may help them budget their retirement fund or social security checks.
- Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails: Cyberthieves are a new threat to anyone using electronic devices. Many times, seniors will click on something for special offers or a promise of a new upgrade to their favorite game app. When this happens, a download of malware may be sent to your devices, whether on your phone, tablet, or personal computer. Seniors need to be very cautious on what they click on. The best thing to do is delete the email and block the sender from sending any more junk.
- Seniors should also be cautious about what they share on social media: Connect only with people you know. Seniors should check privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Scammers often find information about unsuspected targets from online interactions, making them sound like a close friend or family member. Then before they realize it, the scammer may update and change passwords, leaving the senior unaware of what happened to their account.
- Block solicitations: Avoid commercial mail solicitors by arranging for a ban, up to five years at a time with the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service. Seniors should also eliminate unsolicited offers for credit. Through the Federal Communications Commission, seniors may have access to block robocalls by using third-party call-blocking services or call-screening tools. Go to optoutprescreen.com. For more information on blocking solicitations.
Types of Scams
There are many types of scams that are used throughout the world today. Some sound and look legit. They may look like a respected business or organization that helps those in need. Some may start out as a “helping hand” for a small fee. Yet, they all have their own agenda, scamming people out of their hard-earned money. There are also types when money is not the plan of attack. There are some scams that prey on a senior’s emotional state. This could be more damaging to an unexpected victim than just losing money. Below are several types of scams that can affect both the elderly and any individual who may be a target by these con artists.
- Funeral/Cemetery/Cremation Scams
In most cases, funeral homes are legit. Many are highly regulated through the government. However, unless you’ve gone through a loss before, some people do not know how much a funeral or cremation services really cost. This makes it a convenient scam for con artists to take advantage of your loved ones, especially a grandparent who lost a spouse and is all alone when preparing for the burial. It can be easy for funeral directors to add expensive items to the services, such as a high-end casket over a simple coffin. Families are sometimes told they have to buy a full casket for a cremation, although most states just require only a cardboard or wooden box. Seniors or any person who has lost a spouse or family member needs to be aware of these scammers. You should also get a second opinion, by calling a few funeral homes for cost analysis.
- Home Repair Scams
Home repair scams are one of the biggest and oldest tricks when it comes to scamming. It can take on different forms, such as a handyman who just happens to be driving by and sees you outside working in the yard. They may even disguise themselves by dressing in work clothes, such as a cable installer or electrical lineman, in order to look trustworthy. Sometimes they may offer to help with a simple task, but cause more damage, so the owner has to shell out more money to get the job done right. In some cases, they may just want access to an unsuspected senior’s home to simply steal or easily swipe items to rob. Bottom line, seniors should not let someone they don’t know into their house. If you suspect something is missing, call the police right away.
- Lottery Winner Scam
The Lottery Winner Scam is another trick of the scamming trade. Unfortunately, for seniors, this type of scam is pretty common. Older adults are often vulnerable to this type of scam, especially low-income seniors, because they are the ones who are playing the lottery and trying to make a quick cash payout. Sometimes, an illegal immigrant may approach an elderly person and ask them to claim the prize for them while promising to give part of the “supposed winnings” as a gift. All they ask is for the senior to pay them a certain amount of the prize. But in the end, the ticket is a fraud. Seniors may fall for this trap. This is why you should not trust anyone who just walks up to you and claims to have won the lottery.
- Sweetheart Scams
The sweetheart scam has been around for ages. However, it is scarier now with the internet and online dating sites popping up everywhere. The elderly widow or widower falls for the trick by thinking the person is innocent and cares about them. It may start out with a charming man looking for a simple date. Then over time, he slowly moves in, convinces her to “invest” into a big payout, and then takes her money and runs off. More often this happens to lonely elderly people who do not see the warning signs. They may eagerly give their money away to the con artists without realizing what’s really happening. Having a healthy relationship with your adult children may be critical in stopping these scammers. Adult children should be in their parents’ lives and come to their defense.
- Investment Fraud and Pyramid Schemes
The Investment Fraud scam has become one of the most dangerous scams for the elderly in recent times. There are many get rich schemes that bombard seniors in their daily lives. Especially that some elderly people are living only on social security checks, which is not much money. They are faced with having to make what they can during retirement. This leaves them with the possibilities of all types of fraudulent activity, including scams. Many seniors fall for pyramid schemes as well. Companies may call older adults to “recruit” them in a selling project, only to hound them in just recruiting more sellers, instead of actually selling a product or service that benefits them. Seniors should try to avoid getting pressured into becoming a seller and lookout for these signs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Telephone/Internet Scams
Both telephone and internet scams are a common scheme for con artists. Many will call an unexpected senior, pretending to be a trustworthy official, and manipulate them into paying a fee that they really don’t own. Sometimes, they may seem to have good intentions, but they are just working on the victim’s emotional state of mind, making them vulnerable. There are also phishing scams, through the use of the internet. Hackers may use email, social media, viruses, or any other type of electronic method to scam older adults and access their personal information right off their computer. This happens more often than you think, since many older adults do not change their passwords that often or can’t identify if the website is legit or fake.