Senior Scam Alerts
Scam Alerts for Seniors – Part 3
I don’t like that I have to write another article about scams. But I feel it is my responsibility to tell seniors about scams that could affect them. What is a scam and how to avoid them?
A scam is defined as a dishonest scheme, or a fraud. Sadly, there are terrible people in this world that think nothing of being dishonest and taking innocent people’s money.
Senior citizens are particularly susceptible to these schemes. Surprisingly, millennials are scammed more often, but seniors lose more money because they have more money. I think in both cases these groups are more trusting and also eager to help out where they can.
Examples of current scams
- COVID19 – These continue to evolve ever since the pandemic started. Offers of kits, treatments, health insurance, and information from the CDC or WHO. Another scam states that all seniors will receive money to stay at home. The CDC and WHO will not be emailing you. And there are no cures for the virus at this time.
- From well known identifiable agencies – Usually contact is made by a phone call with the caller telling you they are from the IRS, Social Security Administration, FBI, the police, or even Publisher’s Clearing House. Also around this time the impostors are claiming to be the Census Bureau.
- Claims to be from a reputable company – Such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon or Google. Let’s face it, these companies are also too busy to waste an email or phone call on you. These agencies are not going to contact you and demand money. Be careful when you are on Amazon too. There may be non approved sellers hiding in there. Look up their credentials if you are unsure. They can also claim to be some sort of service provider, like an internet service provider.
- Your bank sends you a text that there is a problem with your account. Really? Your bank sends you a text? Only if you have signed up for that service, and they will never ask for your account information.
- Natural disasters relief – The crooks watch the news too! As I write this the hurricanes have devastated Texas and Louisiana. You can be sure there are fake charities out there right now asking for money. So they set up a fake charity site where you can contribute to the relief fund. They don’t provide any relief; just take your money.
- You won! – You won a sweepstakes or a lottery. But did you even enter? Even if you did, you have more secure ways to find out, including contacting the company yourself, instead of trusting someone on the phone that claims to be from there.
- E-skimming – The high tech thieves enter a business online and hack into their system to steal your information. This is how online shopping gets a bad rap. Here’s an article from Reader’s Digest for more information about this particular scam.
- Your computer is infected with a virus – This is an oldie but goodie. You are notified by a popup that your computer is infected and you must click on the notification right away (a red flag) to have them help you fix it. Of course it will cost you money. Because they ask for your credit card. But they don’t fix anything and instead can infect your computer.
- Romance scams – These are still alive and well, unfortunately. The love of your life has contacted you through some social media site. Too bad they live in another country and need your money to come to see you.
- You are targeted to be killed by a hit-man! The person contacting you requires a large sum of money to not kill you.
- Scammers will use a local or US based phone number that they acquired by unscrupulous means. So just because it is a “good” phone number, don’t believe that they are your friend or neighbor.
I found this article especially helpful, and it is where I got lots of my information. It’s from the Dallas Morning News.
Some common characteristics of a scammer
- They tell you to get gift cards, iTunes cards, or to wire money. If it is a gift card or iTunes card, they tell you to scratch the silver bar to reveal the code and then email a picture.
- They apologize for bothering you, but thank you in advance, assuming you will comply. Since we want to be nice, scammers play into that.
- We all tend to be gullible and trusting. As much as we say we aren’t!
- When they can they will identify as a religious organization. They know religious people are more willing to help. Thinking we are doing good we are oblivious to the scam.
- Usually want you to act right now! They don’t want to give you time to think about it.
I found the above information from Reader’s Digest, September 2020, Scammed, by Bruce Grierson.
- Be suspicious of any contact whose origin you don’t know. Contact is made by email, phone calls, advertising on the web, and even to your home!
- Real organizations will not ask for bank information, wire transfers or your social security number.
- Don’t be bullied! Scammers tell you; 1. It has to be done right now! and 2. You’ll be arrested if you don’t comply. They tell you this to get you to panic! Instead HANG UP!
- If it is real, you can check to see if it has to be done right now. Contact the real person to see if they are actually asking you. And contact your police department to see if they are going to arrest you.
- Hang up if you suspect a scam. Do not give any information to someone you don’t know. Delete the suspicious email, or forward it to the company that it is supposedly from.
- If you get a popup about anything that looks scary, don’t click on it. Close it, and run a virus check immediately. If you have some good antivirus software installed this should not happen. But check anyway.
- Keep your information as secure as possible. Don’t post your date of birth and where you were born on places like Facebook.
- Only a few trusted family members should have your personal information. Otherwise, you should never give this information to someone you don’t know.
- Frank Abagnale (the crook turned law abiding citizen featured in Catch Me if You Can) says to always use a credit card and not a debit card. This is a preventive safety measure.
- I am not telling you to use a credit card to pay these scammers. I am telling you a credit card is more secure than a debit card and you can usually recoup the charges if they are fraudulent. Just good practice.
- I have seen it suggested that you have a virtual credit card that you can obtain from your bank. I know nothing about these, but they are the most secure form of payment at this point. That, and PayPal.
Our Government at Work?
What are our legislators doing about it? Probably not enough. They are too busy fighting each other. (Sorry, that’s my personal take on our government right now.) Find out if your representative is actively campaigning to arrest and prosecute these dirt bags.
Here is a link to a 59 page document from the US Senate. It outlines much of what I have written here, in more detail. On page 48 of the document it provides numbers to your state’s attorney general, who should be handling these issues.
However, in another article, the author notes that even our US Attorney General William Barr dropped the ball and didn’t prosecute offenders. We must keep proactive to have our government protect us. And proactive ourselves so as not to fall for these schemes.
I hope this article has been helpful to you. I hope that by reading it, you are educated to not fall for any scams.
But don’t stop here. Please tell your friends what you have learned. Send the link of my article to others who can benefit. Contact your legislators.
I wrote two other articles earlier this year. See: What is a Scam and How to Avoid Them? Scam Alerts for Seniors Part 1 and Fraud and Scam Alert – Scam Alerts for Seniors Part 2
If you have questions or comments, please leave them below. I will do my best to answer your concerns.
I already realize I will have to write another article on other scams. Truly, there are new ones everyday.
I realize you may even wonder if you can trust me, and that’s good. I could be lying about all this and include links that could get you in trouble. If you want, search my name and find out all you can.
I have worked in support services for law enforcement, which is why I take this topic so seriously. I have met people who have lost money from scams.
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