SUREFIRE SCAM-PREVENTION TIPS FOR SENIORS
The term elder care takes on a whole new meaning when looking at crime prevention tips for the elderly.
Some scammers specialize in particular fields, such as deceiving college students, hustling tourists or defrauding homeowners. But one very insidious type of crime has taken hold across the country over the past decade, and law enforcement officials are striving to beat back the scourge—scammers who target the elderly.
Senior citizens are likely to have significant savings socked away for retirement, often own their homes,
and may not have someone nearby to counsel them on whom to trust. That combination is ripe for deception—but seniors don’t have to become victims. Consider the following tips to ensure that you, or the senior citizens who are dear to your heart, don’t fall prey to a scammer.
USE CAUTION ON THE PHONE
Although hustlers may not make their way into a senior’s home directly, they do frequently attempt to gain access to their victims via the phone, says Amy Sailors, crime prevention officer with the Mesa, Arizona, Police Department. She points to the following common phone scams directed at the older population: • PRIZE NOTIFICATION SCAMS
The caller states that the senior won the lottery or sweepstakes but needs to pay a fee before he/ she can collect the winnings.
• SOCIAL SECURITY SCAMS
A call from someone who claims to be from the Social Security office and asks the senior to verify his or her Social Security number.
• GRANDPARENT SCAM
Someone calls and acts like a family member in distress who needs money to get out of trouble.
• IRS SCAM
The caller claims to be from the IRS, telling the senior that he/she owes money that must be paid or the senior will be arrested.
• CHARITY DONATION APPEAL Someone calls requesting money for a charity, which they attempt to collect via credit card payment.
“We advise people to sign up for caller ID on their phones so they can see where the call is originating from,” Sailors says.
However, even the digital caller ID readout can be manipulated by machines programmed to display a particular name or number instead of a genuine one, she says.
“MOST OF THE TIME, THE SCAM ARTIST TRIES TO RUSH THE VICTIM INTO MAKING A HURRIED DECISION …” —AMY SAILORS, CRIME PREVENTION OFFICER WITH THE MESA, ARIZONA, POLICE DEPARTMENT
“Most of the time, the scam artist tries to rush the victim into making a hurried decision, so we recommend if they are confused or don’t know who they are talking to, take a number and say they need to discuss with a family member or just hang up the phone—you are not obligated to talk to them,” Sailors says.
In addition, Sailors reminds seniors to never give out personal information, such as date of birth, Social Security number or home address, as well as to never reveal credit card, debit card or bank account numbers.
“No legitimate business would be requesting that over the phone,” she adds.
IF YOU'VE BEEN TARGETED
Unfortunately, some seniors don’t realize they’ve been victimized until it’s too late. Often, they’ll hang up the phone and immediately accept the fact that something didn’t feel right. In other cases, they may not notice until money leaves their bank account or the bank calls to verify a suspicious transaction. No matter how the scam is discovered, however, it should be reported to the authorities.
“Contact the local police department and file a report, so there is a record of the incident,” Sailors advises.
If the senior lost money, they should report it to the state attorney general’s office, she adds. In addition, know that scammers tend to always ring twice—or more. “Be aware that once they have been victimized by a scam, it is possible to be victimized a second time,” she says, or even more frequently.
Therefore, never let your guard down following a scam, and remain vigilant to avoid another incident.
OFFERS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
The phone isn’t the only means that scammers use to infiltrate the lives of seniors, but it is the most common way. However, seniors should also be equally vigilant when contacted via email, Facebook, mail or in person. And when dealing with strangers, you should always be suspicious of unusual requests.
“Our best advice to any age group of citizens is, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’” Sailors said.
“BE AWARE THAT ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN VICTIMIZED BY A SCAM, IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE VICTIMIZED A SECOND TIME.”
Salesmen may come to the door and say that the roof requires repairs or that there are bugs that need to be exterminated. Never give these people money or personal information up front.