Financial scams affect thousands of people each year, a large number of which are adults over the age of 65. Digital thieves frequently follow the same patterns, adopting methods that have been proven to work when targeting this portion of the population. While seniors cannot prevent scammers from choosing them, they can become educated about the most common tricks and how to avoid them.
The Grandparents Scam
This scam was highlighted by the National Council on Aging as being one of the most common tricks older adults may encounter. Seniors receive a phone call from a person claiming to be a grandchild, though they will never reveal their name when prompted. Instead, they will bait the person with, "Don't you recognize my voice?" Once the senior believes they are speaking to a grandchild or long-lost relative, the caller asks for money to help them get out of a tricky situation - whether it be for overdue rent, car payments or bills. The "grandchild" then implores the senior not to call his or her parents. If the senior sends money or gives the caller access to a bank account, the older adult may see several fraudulent charges over the course of the next few weeks.
To avoid falling into this trap, seniors should do the following when speaking to someone whose identity is not verified:
- Always ask for the name - never reveal who you believe the caller to be.
- Ask identifying questions that only a family member could answer, such as their mother's maiden name or city of your residence.
- Never reveal financial information over the phone.
We're having trouble with your account
Seniors who are traveling or staying at a hotel may encounter this scam. In the middle of the night, older adults receive a phone call from a person claiming to be a worker at the lodging area. They will explain that there has been some kind of problem with the account and that the senior must read their credit card over the phone in order to fix the issue. The person, groggy, divulges financial information, then learns several days later that their account has been compromised.
To avoid this scam, be sure to do the following when prompted for financial information over the phone at any location:
- Tell the caller you will go to the front desk to resolve the matter. Hotels will not prompt you for finances over the phone, so insist on speaking in person to verify the identity of the caller.
- Ask the caller to repeat your name, room number and duration of stay - if the person works at the reception desk, this information should be readily available.
You've won a free medical device!
The AARP highlighted this scam, which has made a comeback in retirement communities recently. Seniors receive a phone call or email communication from an agency claiming the person has qualified for a free medical alert device. The phone call is generally a robot, prompting the senior to divulge banking and personal identification information to complete the process. The AARP noted that the new scam also tells the caller that they have qualified for a $3,000 bonus, which will be delivered directly to their bank account.
In order to not fall victim to this call, seniors should keep the following in mind:
- Always be cautious when answering a phone call from an unknown number - if you're not sure who it is, don't answer. If the person needs your attention, he or she will leave a voicemail.
- Never reveal credit card info on the phone if the agency is not verified. Try to speak to a real human and have them verify the legitimacy of the organization.
- If you answer and hear a robotic voice, hang up. Do not select an option that says, "Press 3 to hang up," as this option shows the scammer that you may answer calls in the future.