Each year, millions of seniors fall victim to a number of different types of fraud or financial schemes, reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sadly, many scammers target elderly individuals because they believe they can win over their trust and confidence. Most often, seniors become subject to technology, romance, impersonation, lottery, home repair or caregiver scams. Although there are thousands of scam attempts targeting seniors each day, there are ways to help educate and protect your loved ones.
Explain the risks of giving out personal information: First and foremost, seniors and elderly loved ones should be told why exactly giving out personal information over the phone or internet can be extremely dangerous. Emphasize to them that if someone asks for their personal information, they should call the source the person claims to work for, to verify that the request is valid. They should also resist the urge to act quickly. Ultimately, if the individual feels unsure or concerned, they should know to reach out to someone they trust for a second opinion or advice.
Do an online name search: To assess how easily accessible your loved one’s contact information is, simply search their name, number, address and emails in a search engine. Whatever information you can find, know that others searching the internet can find this as well. In many cases, the site may be able to remove this personal information upon request. If they don’t answer or refuse to take the information down, contact support through the search engine by which you found the website.
Install antivirus software: If your loved one has computer access, make sure you install antivirus and security software to protect against hackers. Malware protection should also be up-to-date. When selecting an antivirus software or firewall, ensure that the brand is reputable.
Inquire about “too-good-to-be-true” scenarios: In the case of sweepstakes and giveaways, seniors often become too excited by the prospects to consider the validity. Instead of addressing the possibility of a scam directly, AARP suggests that individuals instead ask questions about how they can participate in the same sweepstakes. This will lead the individual to explain how they came across it, what information they provided, and who they spoke with. That way, you can determine for yourself if the sweepstakes seems suspicious. If you determine the giveaway to be a scam, and your loved one is reluctant to believe you, have them call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center toll-free at 800-646-2283.
As the Baby Boomer population ages and a larger elder community emerges, warning about elderly scams is as important as ever. Prevention is key, because it is common for seniors who have been scammed to feel too ashamed to report the crime. Furthermore, they may not understand how to report a financial scheme to the authorities.
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.