How to Detect & Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors
Studies consistently show that seniors are disproportionately affected by financial scams. Whether it’s an IRS scam, a tech support scam, or some other variation, seniors tend to be affected the worst. This discriminatory targeting takes place because seniors have more money saved than other groups, as a simple fact of their age and increased working years.
But you can’t be scammed if you know the tricks scammers use, so it’s important to be aware of popular scamming themes. Being able to identify a scam will allow you to distance yourself mentally from the false promise the scammer is peddling.
How To Identify a Scam
The graphic accompanying this post provides a thorough set of examples of the most popular scams. Thankfully, these don’t change much year-to-year since the topics don’t change much. Taxes, tech support and potential winnings are always the best way to draw in unsuspecting victims. There are many variations, for example in the “potential winnings” category there could be a fraudulent vacation giveaway or a fraudulent monetary giveaway.
But recognizing the broader theme is what’s important. When you receive an unsolicited email purporting that you’ve won a vacation or money, that should instantly register as a red flag. Even if you’re initially excited, try to think logically about the chance that a stranger wants to give you substantial amounts of money for no good reason.
Another fantastic tool for learning about identity theft is this page created by LifeLock. The resource page not only gives examples of how scammers get your info to defraud you, but also gives you risk factors for whatever stage of life you’re in.
What To Do If You’re Contacted By A Scammer
If the scammer contacts you via telephone, hang up and block their number. If it’s an email, block the sender. Simply hanging up or deleting the email alone isn’t good enough, because that leaves the opportunity for the scammer to contact you on a later date where for whatever reason you might be more susceptible to their pitch.
We’ve heard from many seniors who were vigilant enough to shut down the conversation with a scammer on their initial try, but gave in during future attempts for various reasons. Some were at at a low point in their lives: depressed, anxious, lonely, and just wanted someone to talk to. If you recognize yourself in those characteristics, try to seek counseling not only for the health benefits but because it could make you less susceptible to scams.
How Caregivers Can Help
If you’re a care provider for a senior citizen, it would be useful for you to help them set up security features on all of their devices. Although there are plenty of seniors who are extremely tech-savvy, many can use the help of a caregiver who grew up interacting with digital devices and is more comfortable with them. Ensure that sensitive information is protected by 2-factor authentication, ideally with a timed app like Google Authenticator rather than a SMS-based system.
Many smartphones have the option somewhere in the security settings to automatically reject calls from unidentified numbers, so that is also an avenue with pursuing. Make sure that the senior has all of their family and emergency contacts saved in their address book beforehand so that no family members are blocked from contacting them.