We live in an incredible age. Technologies like the internet and mobile telephones are creating amazing opportunities for us stay informed about current events, to correspond with family members and even to view the latest pictures of our grandchildren while they’re away at summer camp. The Internet is an exciting place. And senior citizens are among the fastest-growing groups of users in the United States. According to a New Media Trend Watch survey, 52.2% of seniors use the internet.
However, even as seniors are becoming more adept with new technologies, many remain highly vulnerable to deception. Con-artists prey on seniors, who aren’t always familiar with the latest in technology-mediated scams. StopFraud.gov identifies some of these scams, including telemarketing ploys, internet fraud, investment schemes and lottery fraud. While such scams are increasingly widespread, you don’t have to be a victim. And you don’t have to stop using your phone or computer to protect yourself. You simply need to know what to look out for. Below are a few tips on how to arm yourself against senior scams:
Trust Your Suspicion If something seems fishy, it probably is. Don’t let an aggressive scammer talk you out of your first instinct. With telemarketing scams in particular, the caller may pose as a credit card company representative, a bank employee or even your own grandchild. If you don’t recognize the voice of the person on the other end of the line or if you don’t have an account with the company that he or she claims to represent, don’t hesitate to voice your suspicion. If the person on the other end is who he or she claims to be, they should be able to prove it to you. If they can’t, just hang up.
Don’t Be Pressured One tactic that a lot of scammers will use is to pressure you with urgency. For instance, an article in Keloland tells of an 86-year old man who was harassed by a caller claiming to be his grandson. In this case, the scammer attempted to convince the would-be victim to wire him bail money for release from an international jail. The perpetrator attempted to convince the well-meaning senior that his situation was urgent and his need for money was immediate. Fortunately, the perpetrator in this case failed to make a convincing case. But other seniors have been less fortunate. Don’t let an aggressive email or phone call pressure you into making a costly mistake.
Ask Lots of Questions The last thing a scammer wants to do is answer a lot of questions. Any time you receive a phone call or an email from an unfamiliar source, you have a right and a responsibility to learn more. If the individual claims to be a customer service representative, ask for more information about the company. Ask for the caller’s Customer Service ID number. Ask to speak with a supervisor. Ask if there’s a number that you can use to reach the caller after you’ve done a little research. Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Ultimately, the more questions you ask, the more uncomfortable the scammer will become. In the end, the way that the individual answers these questions will either remove your suspicions or help you to uncover the caller’s true intentions.
Talk to Somebody You Trust If you receive a suspicious email or phone call, seek out a trusted family member, friend or even a bank employee for advice. Tell somebody else about the contents of the suspicious correspondence and get a second opinion. Before you respond, and especially before you open up your checkbook, consult somebody close to you. Sometimes, the warning signs are easier to spot when you have help.
Keep Private Information Private Never, ever give away critical personal information to a random caller or email correspondent. We can’t stress this point enough! Only scammers will contact you and ask for your bank account number, your social security number or a credit or debit card number. Your bank or credit card company will never contact you and ask for this information over the phone or by email. If somebody that you don’t know asks for this critical information, simply refuse and cease contact.