Senior Scams are on the Rise – What to Watch Out For
Scams targeting the seniors can occur any time within the course of the year however the following scams appear to be more prevalent during the holiday season:
The Grandparent Scam
In this scam, a scammer calls a senior pretending to be their grandchild. The person on the other line asks the elder if they know who is calling and when the grandparent guesses the name of one of their grandchildren, the scammer pretends to be that grandchild. The “grandchild” then makes a plea for money after telling the elder that they are in some sort of financial trouble, that they need help affording gifts for the family, they need money to pay for their college tuition etc. The scammer on the other end of the phone asks their “grandparent” if they can send money using Western Union or MoneyGram to help them out. They plead with the “grandparent” not to tell anyone about their situation. Once your money is received by the scammer they consider it a successful transaction. The scammers will usually call again in the future to take advantage for as many times as they can.
You know your grandchildren. Pay attention to the voice of the person on the other line and the story they are telling you. If you say to yourself, “that doesn’t sound like my grandchild’s voice” or if you can’t imagine that your grandchild would have ended up in a scenario quite like the one you are being told, don’t fall for it. Instead, hang up the phone call and call the alleged grandchild directly and ask them if they just called you.
Disaster Relief / Charity Scam
The holidays are a time for giving and seniors are usually the first ones to try to help those in need if they have the ability to do so. Scammers know this and try to take advantage of this generosity by pretending to be someone who is part of a disaster relief program or someone soliciting donations for a charitable organization.
There are many ways to make charitable donations during the holiday season through reputable sources. You will often see someone from the Salvation Army ringing the bell outside department stores and grocery stores. You may see a “Giving Tree” at your local house of worship that collects items for needy children around the holidays. Do not provide credit card information to anyone over the phone claiming to be from a charitable organization. Instead, end the call, research the organization and then make a donation via a secure website. To find a charity or to check the validity of a charitable organization, visit www.charitynavigator.org or check the Better Business Bureau website for more information.
The IRS Scam
Scammers use fear and intimidation in this type of scam whereby they claim to be from the IRS and state that the senior owes back taxes and urges the person to “pay the amount owed” via a prepaid credit card to avoid possible legal action.
Don’t be fooled by these con artists that pretend to be from the IRS. The IRS does not call about collections nor would they ever ask for payment via a prepaid credit card or threaten arrest.
Sweepstakes or Lottery Scams
“Congratulations, you’re a winner!”
This scheme usually involves a scammer contacting seniors by mail or telephone and telling them that they have won a prize. However they must pay in order to receive their prize. Scammers send a fake check to the senior to deposit in their bank account. The scammer knows it will take some time for the bank to reject the check. Meanwhile, the victim has sent the scammer money through wire transfer for fees or taxes on the prize earnings. When the check doesn’t clear, the senior realizes they were victimized and that the money they sent to the scammer is gone.
If you get this kind of call and feel it is “too good to be true” because you can’t remember ever entering a drawing for a prize or raffle, that’s because it IS too good to be true- it’s a scam! Had you really won a prize, no up-front payment of fees or taxes would be necessary. If you get a call like this, what you need to do is plain and simple…hang up!
Online Shopping / Internet Scams
With the advances in technology, it has become easier than ever before for scammers to trick unsuspecting elders. They design websites that so closely mimic valid merchant websites it can be nearly impossible to detect that it is a fraudulent site. Unfortunately, in this scam, seniors fall prey during their online shopping sprees whereby they check out and provide their credit card information but the goods purchased are instead sent to the scammer or the scammer just takes the money. No goods are delivered to the senior however the money they “spent” has been taken.
Similarly, one of the most popular internet scams involve seniors downloading fake anti-virus software. This appears on your computer via a pop-up alleging that your current anti-virus software is out-of-date which allows scammers to access personal information on your computers. Seniors might also respond to phishing emails that look like legitimate communication sent by their bank or a merchant they recently ordered from which is actually sent by scammers. Through these phishing emails, the senior may be asked to confirm or enter bank information or update their credit card information but, in reality, all of this information is being confirmed for the scammer to take full advantage.
With regard to internet scams, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
It really can be difficult determining which website is a phony website and which website is legitimate. It is important to know that this is not just something elders struggle with- it is something that everyone who uses the internet must be aware of! This article provides some helpful tips for determining whether a website is fake, fraudulent or a scam. Use this information as a resource anytime you go to make a purchase or enter any confidential information online.
In addition, you can always check a business’ rating on the Better Business Bureau website.