How Can Seniors Protect Themselves Against Scams?

How Can Seniors Protect Themselves Against Scams?

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and a lot of people are desperate these days, so they resort to fraud and scams to try and obtain somebody else’s hard-earned money. Scammer’s tactics have changed over the years and vary depending on the mode, but the goal has remained the same. They are manipulative in nature and have learned skills and methods to earn someone’s trust; after all, they are scams for a reason—because people often fall for them. They are experts at exploiting vulnerable people by using scare tactics and instilling a sense of urgency in their victims. One largely targeted group of scammers is senior citizens.

4 Reasons Why Scammers Target Seniors:

  1. Seniors oftentimes have declining health, which puts them in a vulnerable position.
  2. Seniors often live alone and can feel isolated or lonely, which makes them more willing to trust others.
  3. Seniors have retired and typically have savings stored away.
  4. Seniors often have little skill and knowledge of technology.

Scamming has been around for a long time, but the scammer’s methods have evolved with the times and have become more intelligent. More and more scams surfacing these days often aim to threaten seniors because they are considered an easy target. The FBI reported that in 2022, there were roughly 88,000 older American victims of internet fraud, the greatest financial loss of all age groups. 

Scammers have spent years perfecting their craft and discovering new ways to trick people. They know who to target and how to target them. There have been many stories of seniors losing their life savings to scams and the devastation that can come from that. Scams are sometimes hard to detect, especially when we want to believe that we have indeed won an all-expenses-paid vacation to a tropical island, but sadly, not everyone can be a winner. Luckily, there are warning signs and things to be on the lookout for when it comes to scams.

Some Common Types of Scams Include:

  • advance fee scam
  • grandparent scam
  • tech support scam
  • phone scam
  • phishing
  • emergency scam
  • government imposter scam
  • bogus debt scam
  • lottery or sweepstakes scam

Scams can be delivered through email, text, phone calls, or postal mail.

With technological advancements in recent years, artificial intelligence has heavily impacted the world of scamming. Some methods of scamming use this exact technology to target the empathy of older adults by using what’s known as the “Grandparent Scam”.

What is the “Grandparent Scam”?

The grandparent scam often utilizes the technology of artificial intelligence (AI) to pose as a grandchild in need. Often, they’ll pose as your grandchild or a friend of theirs and claim there is an emergency, such as a car accident or arrest, and say they need money immediately. The scammers hope to confuse you and instill a sense of urgency, so you won’t ask too many questions. They hope to play into your compassion and care for your family. 

In this situation, a smart thing to do to determine if you’re being scammed or if a loved one is actually in need would be to ask questions that only they would know the answer to. It’s always better to stay on the safe side than to be sorry later. Ask questions that are unlikely to be known by just anybody, for example, the name of their first pet. Next, you can call back at your grandchild’s typical phone number to see if they are in danger, and odds are they’ll pick up while doing some mundane task and have no clue of the emergency they were claimed to be in. Always trust your gut instincts; if something doesn’t feel right, that’s probably because it isn’t. 

The 5 Warning Signs of a Scam:

  1. An unsolicited call from a company or government agency: They pretend to be someone they are not. Scammers can use real company or organization names and pretend to work with them.
  2. A fake problem or emergency: claiming you owe money or have a family member in an emergency. They use scare tactics to hopefully make you more compliant. 
  3. Opposite of the prior, they’ll try to lure you in with claims of a prize. They’ll try to convince you that you’ve won a product or prize that sounds too good to be true, because it is.
  4. They often use scare tactics and pressure you to decide, so you don’t have adequate time to think it over. Their goal is to get you to act quickly and in the moment, so they apply pressure to hopefully get what they want.
  5. Scammers often insist on certain ways of paying, which are often not typical. This can be through purchasing gift cards and giving them the numbers on the card, or through a money transfer. They want your personal information and/or money, and they’ll do just about anything to get it.

How to Avoid Scams:

  • Block unknown callers and end the phone conversation if it seems suspicious.
  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers; stranger danger exists even across phone lines.
  • Don’t click on links in emails or text messages from unknown sources.
  • Don’t give out your personal information or send money to someone you do not personally know.
  • Always remember: if it’s too good to be true, it is.
  • Confer with a person you trust if you are unsure about whether or not something is a scam.
  • Take your time, ask for identification, and do research. 

4 Ways to Protect Your Loved One From Being Scammed:

  1. check in with them often.
  2. educate them about the risks of scams and fraud.
  3. sign them up for a credit monitoring service.
  4. register them on the national do-not-call registry to minimize their chances of being targeted by telephone scammers.

It can be hard to see the good in the world when it is so often inundated with bad. But there is still an abundance of good out there, and good people still exist among the bad. So, stay vigilant and be on the lookout for anything that appears to be a scam, because if you think it is, it probably is. By recognizing the warning signs of scams and being proactive with your safety, you can help minimize your risk of being targeted by scammers. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust; there is no need to feel ashamed for wanting to assume the best in others. Stay vigilant and stay safe!

Written for Senior Industry Services By Lauren Hope Bartling