In the January-February issue of the AARP Bulletin, scam-guru Sid Kirchheimer explores the latest scam campaigns that don’t even have to call you to rip you off. One of the latest scams uses PINs to log into your bank account, change the PIN and drain your account. Another steals your identity by text messaging you a fake problem that needs your account info to solve. Sid says, “Be stingy with your phone number and never respond to a text message’s instructions. Instead, contact the short code 7726 so cell phone carriers can block that sender.
Why seniors are victims of fraud
Unfortunately, some of the older tricks in the scam book still work on all too many seniors. The experts at the FBI’s Common Fraud schemes website explain that older citizens are common victims for lots of reasons. For starters, they tend to have a “nest egg,” own their own homes and have great credit. This age group also tends to be polite and trusting and even if they know they have been scammed, many are too ashamed to contact the police. In addition, seniors are highly susceptible to scams promoting products that will make them healthier, brighter or offer a cure for chronic pain.
Some common scams
Most seniors have experienced a come-on or potential scam. These days, for example, it’s possible to receive multiple calls in one day from your area code that you don’t recognize. The problem is, it’s hard to block because it could a friend or neighbor.
Here are a few of the most common scams and a short description:
“You’ve Already Won….”
The fake sweepstakes scam sends official-looking documents to seniors asking them to send small amounts of money – from $5 to $50. In one recent case an 88-year-old widow spent over $60,000 on fake sweepstakes in just two years.
Talk to Me
Sleazy telemarketers call to chat with seniors to offer them great deals or prizes. To claim these nonexistent prizes or deals and to cover handling fees, victims divulge their credit-card and bank-account numbers.
In a store parking lot, a scammer disables a senior’s car by pulling out a spark-plug wire. The scammer waits and when the senior comes out and the car doesn’t start, he poses as a helpful passerby, fixes the problem and demands a cash reward.
What can seniors do to stay safe
First of all, make sure all devices and websites not only have a strong password but a question that only the owner knows the answer. Use the privacy settings on phones and some sort of anti-virus or anti-malware on the computer. Get help from a tech-savvy pal to install all this.
But according to a website called ProtectSeniorsOnline.com, seniors should use their common sense. Also, family members and friends should talk about these issues to underscore the importance of not getting sucked into an illegal scheme.
The most important thing is to think before you act. If someone is asking for money or offering a deal that’s too good to be true – it probably is a scam.