Seniors Beware the Scammer. Many good and caring people live in the world. In times of disasters, and the Pandemic, we saw strangers with big hearts, helping out and going the extra mile for others. We celebrate folks who volunteer their time to help others in need, especially during disasters. We celebrate even small ways acts of kindness such as a person who holds the door open for you as you are entering a store. Especially in our tumultuous times, it is important to be kind and generous to our fellow neighbors. Along with good people who help, there exists a group of people who are not helpful. Scammers exist out there who prey on various populations, usually ones who are the most vulnerable. Seniors and those with disabilities, and even single lonely people became easy prey. They are targets who may become victims of scams. Seniors, especially tend to not have the best social media or technology skills, making them an easier target. Beware of senior scams!
Beware of Scamming Methods
What are scamming methods? In order to pull a scam on a victim, the Scammer must somehow get in contact. Different contact happen by telephone, cellphone, social media, text messages, and even letters. Usually, a scammer will call on the telephone impersonating a government official, a banker, even a credit card company. Scammers also connect with you on the internet. Scammers even call you or text your cell phone. What is the red flag? Let's read some tips to watch out for.
The phone caller wants personal information and asks for your social security number. Never give out personal information or your social security number in a phone call or on the Internet. Beware of people impersonating the IRS or Social Security. Don't give out your credit card information over the phone.
Watch out for fake Facebook friends.
The Better Business Bureau reported that a government grant scam is prevalent on Facebook. The scammer makes a fake Facebook profile that looks like it belongs to a friend of yours. The “friend” sends a message to you stating that the “friend” received a government grant of some sort. Of course, to receive the government grant, you must make an initial investment or pay an application fee. When you see a friend request from a person already your Facebook friend, it may be fake. Be careful on Social Media. Know who are your friends and who you are communicating with.
- Don't believe every Facebook profile is real, even ones that look like they belong to a real-life friend. If you are already friends on Facebook, you don't need to friend two profiles of the same person!
- All legitimate federal grants are listed on www.grants.gov.
- Government agencies will not communicate with you via social media.
- Don't give out personal information on social media platforms.
The Fake Money Scam
3. Watch out for scam emails, fake pop-ups, and fake bank transfers.
Some scammers will send out an email stating that you have a virus or other malware on your computer. In one instance, the victim was contacted by a company called Premium Tech Support to clean up his computer. The victim was quoted a price of $599, which he paid. The company subsequently told him they accidentally deposited almost $80,000 into the victim's bank account and asked for the money back transferred the funds back to the company, only to realize that the initial transfer of funds from the company into the victim's bank account was phony.
In another instance, the senior had a pop-up window appear on their computer that informed them they had a virus. The pop-up asked for the senior to contact customer support to fix the issue. Once the senior called customer support, a representative took control over the victim's computer to remove the non-existent virus. Paying to remove the non-existent virus was one part of the scam, but then the scammer also had access to sensitive information. Another way that a fake bank transfer happens in email is a request to help someone in need of money. Don't send the money! Think about it and read lessons others learned.
- Do some research to ensure you are working with a reputable business.
- If you think there has been a banking error of some sort, contact the bank to determine the real facts.
- Real Charities are registered and help people in need. Charities are registered with each state and with the IRS. Always make sure a charity is legitimate.
- Don't give a third-party access to your computer unless you know for sure it is customer support from a company that you contacted.
- Don't fall for a letter claiming that there is money accidentally deposited into your account and to return it.
The Fake Repair Scam
4. Watch out for home repair scams
Home repair scams can come in many forms. The first thing a scammer can do is quote you one cheaper price for work and then demand much more after it is finished. Another way the scammer can operate is to do repairs that you never requested or agreed to. Or, the scammer can impersonate a building inspector and demand immediate repairs. Some scammers will up their fear game by telling you that they will put a lien on your home if you don't agree to what they offer. Scammers will offer to do a job for cash, get the money, and not do the job. Unfortunately many women fall prey to the home repair or lawn/landscaping drive by. Let's read some lessons learned.
- If a stranger comes to your home seeking to do repairs, tell them you want to get other estimates. This will give you time to see if the company is legitimate. Legitimate companies shouldn't have a problem with you getting other estimates. Also, to solicit business many municipalities require that they carry paperwork to show they are legal. If they can't produce the paperwork to solicit business, the person should not be at your door.
- You can protect yourself against unwanted solicitation by putting a sign “No Solicitation” on your door.
- If you aren't interested in the product or service, then don't feel bad saying no. It is your choice! Don't get manipulated or bullied.
- If you tell the scammer “no,” then they will oftentimes try to throw in a last-minute “deal.” Please, don't fall for it!
- Don't be an easy target. Never pay cash up front. Rely on real businesses to give you an estimate and ask for a photo of the person coming to do the work. Be proactive to protect yourself.
The Fake Romance Scam
5. Watch out for romance scams
Seniors are vulnerable to loneliness, especially in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Since you may not be able to go to the places you would normally go to meet people, you may turn to the internet to find companionship. And there are many legitimate websites to find love! However, some scammers will create fake dating profiles and try to lure you into a relationship. Then, the scammer can ask for money, sensitive banking information, or gift cards. Don't find out the hard way that it's your pocketbook and not your heart he or she is after.
In one instance, the scammer talked the senior into doing an illegal act. The senior went to China to meet her paramour, whom she had met online. When she arrived, he was mysteriously unavailable to meet her, but some of his “friends” asked her to take a backpack full of the paramour's clothing back to Australia. She was in a vulnerable position and alone. The backpack contained drugs, unbeknownst to the senior. After taking the backpack through airport security, she was arrested. That's an extreme, but true example. Scammers look for potential victims who seem cut-off from society, without friends, family, or a support system. They invest time to groom a potential victim and set them up for a fall. Remember scammers rely on secrecy.
- Don't rush into any relationship.
- If the person cannot be available to video chat, they may not be who they say they are.
- Do an internet search of the individual's name and profile pictures. Have an investigator do an online search if you need to. Often, the person has a criminal record.
- If an in-person meeting occurs, do so in a public place.
- Definitely don't send any money to someone unless you are confident it isn't a scam.
- Surround yourself with a solid support system with different people about different life events and struggles.
Why Don't Seniors Report Being Scammed?
Unfortunately, many scams, especially agains senior go unreported. Between 2 and 3 million seniors get scammed every year. However, on average, only 1 in 44 cases is reported. But why? One reason is that many seniors are embarrassed that they were scammed. They think that others will think them unfit and may even “put them in a home.” Another reason financial exploitation isn't reported is the perpetrator is a family member, and the senior doesn't want to see them get in trouble. Many women who get scammed are victims of prior abuse from a previous relationship/marriage. The victimization that reoccurs brings further shame, discomfort, even depression.
Where Can You Go for Help?
If you or a loved one suspects that victimization from a scam occurred, there are ways to get help. You can call your local police department or call 1-800-677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator. This government-sponsored national resource line helps folks find contact information for Adult Protective Services in their area. States also have hotlines to report Senior abuse and financial exploitation. Here are some more resources to keep handy:
- FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Federal Trade Commission
- National Institute of Justice
- National Adult Protective Services Association