USA TODAY US Edition
Con artists target older adults over the holidays
Online, social media scams increasingly may look legit
This is the season for giving. Unfortunately scammers know it and are getting smarter about ways to cash in.
Con-artist Grinches have an array of updated tricks this year, including copycat charity websites that look legit and ticket agencies, experts say. Scammers also are searching Facebook and other sites for personal information to sound like they know you.
“They go after everyone, but they especially target seniors who are at home to answer the phone and are not as savvy on the Internet,” says Sally Hurme, an AARP lawyer and senior project manager for education and outreach.
No group compiles national data on consumer scams. But between 2008 and 2010, scams soared from 9% to 28% of all claims of financial abuse reported by seniors, according to a Metlife Mature Market Institute report. The scams spiked during the holiday season, and victims were nearly twice as likely to be women ages 80-89 who live alone.
Hurme warns social-media users not to list home addresses or post family’s names on photos. Otherwise, she says, your life becomes an open book.
“They’re getting all this information from Facebook and other sites,” says Karen Bullock, professor of social work at North Carolina State University. “They spend hours cross-referencing information to sound like the real deal.”
Scammers pose as charities at the end of the year when donations peak, Hurme says. “They’ve gotten good at this, and they’re lucrative.”