5 min read
Put a stop to senior scams online and over the phone.
You don’t know the number, but you take the call. The man on the other end of the line claims there’s a warrant out for your arrest. He says you’ll go to jail if you don’t meet him tomorrow and pay off a $3,000 fine.
Our advice: hang up the phone!
Stay with us to find out how to avoid costly senior scams like this one.
Senior Scams Lead to Staggering Losses
According to the Special Committee on Aging, financial scams cost seniors almost $3 billion every year.
Criminals go after your retirement savings, social security numbers, and bank accounts because they view seniors as more trusting targets.
That’s why you need to pay close attention to any request for your personal information through mail, online, or over the phone. If it sounds sketchy or too good to be true, it’s probably sketchy and too good to be true.
Take a Stand Against Phone Scams
A Truecaller report says Americans lost an estimated $9.5 billion from phone scams in 2017.
Hang up immediately when someone calls you and says:
- “I’d like to help you recover a suspended Social Security number.”
- “You qualify for a guaranteed government grant.”
- “You’ve won a cruise.”
- “You could make six figures working as a secret shopper.”
- “You have outstanding warrants, but you can avoid arrest by paying us today.”
The telecommunications industry has rolled out technology to identify potential spoofed calls for land lines and cell phones, but you might wonder how to stop scam calls when they get through to you.
1. Don’t Answer Calls or Respond to Text Messages From Unknown Numbers
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says you should never answer calls from an unfamiliar number. When you pick up, you’re telling the telemarketers you’ll probably answer the next call. This could lead to more unsolicited harassment.
Also stay on the lookout for a text-based scheme called smishing. Here’s how smishing works:
- You receive a text message from someone posing as your bank, Google, or a government institution.
- The sender asks you to respond to the text with a specific phrase.
- If you respond, you give a criminal access to install information-collecting malware on your phone.
Just like with phone calls, you should never respond to a text from an unfamiliar number. If you suspect a message is a scam, report it to your cell phone carrier.
2. Put Your Number on the National Do Not Call Registry
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages you to put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry if you don’t want unsolicited calls or texts. This might reduce the number of calls you receive, but scammers don’t care much for legalities.
3. Turn to Call-Blocking Apps
According to USA Today, several cell phone carriers already use spam call blocking. The FCC says providers must put caller verification in place by the end of 2019.
You could take another proactive step by installing a call-blocking app on your phone.
These call-blocking and security apps appear on several “best of” lists:
Protect Your Information Online
AgingInPlace says the most frequent internet senior scams promise:
- Free vacations
- Sweepstakes or lottery winnings
- Cheap prescriptions
- Cheap anti-aging products
- A credit card advance for a fee (at your expense)
Don't Download That Attachment
It's a good idea to ignore emails and online messages from unknown sources.
Let's say you open an email from an unfamiliar sender. Don’t download attachments or follow links in this message because it could contain malware that gives hackers access to your financial accounts.
Screen Your Friend Requests
You shouldn't accept social media friend requests from people you don't know. Cybercriminals create fake accounts then try to befriend you, earn your trust, and get you to send money with stories like:
- "Hackers took my life savings.”
- “My wife needs surgery, but we don’t have health insurance.”
- "Our house burned down, and we lost everything."
Break Up With Romance Scams
There’s nothing wrong with searching for a potential partner online. But the FTC says you should stop all communication when a sweetheart-to-be asks for money.
Documented romance scams involved requests to pay for plane tickets, wire money, and cover mortgages. The person contacting you might’ve set up a fake account. If you ask to meet them, they could claim they’re traveling outside the United States due to job or military commitments.
They Aren’t Who They Say They Are
The following statement comes directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
“The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”
If you receive an email from someone claiming to represent the IRS, forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, delete the message.
Talk to Your Friends and Family
There’s no shame in asking for help before you take action on an email, call, or online message you’re not sure about.
Talk to your friends and family if you think you’ve been targeted by a senior scam. Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated techniques, so their offers might look authentic.
Pekin Insurance offers a few plans that include coverage for expenses caused by ID fraud. Reach out to your local Pekin Insurance agent to find out more!