Telemarketing fraud is a common scam. Unfortunately, elderly people sometimes lack the digital skills to recognize fraud, so they become easy targets. The financial exploitation of senior citizens has grown over the years. Reasons include a lack of understanding of cybersecurity and protecting their personal information. There is also research that shows that senior citizens tend to have a higher level of trust in strangers. The FBI reports that senior citizens are less likely to press charges after being scammed. They believe that the reason for this is the fear of being regarded as incompetent or dumb.
A way to protect your elderly loved ones from scammers is to talk to them about the most common elderly scams, and these include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Prizes: One of the most common telemarketing scam strategies is to make the person believe they have won a prize and they have to pay taxes on it, or shipping fees, or other associated fees. A rule-of-thumb here should be that anything that requires an upfront payment in order to receive the promised reward, it is a scam.
- Investment “opportunities”: They are presented with fabulous business opportunities, sometimes even from well-established businesses, and they, and offered to invest. Serious companies do not use cold calling strangers as a way to find investments, nor they request money transfers to their “employees”.
- Insurance fraud: If an insurance “representative” calls to ask for personal information, it’s most likely a fraud. The rule should be to never disclose any personal data online or over the phone.
- Pretending to be a relative: this one is easier in the form of an email or social media message, but it also happens by phone. Someone poses as a relative and asks for money or personal or financial information.
- Buying online: a lot of elderly people fall easily for this one. They approach a “seller” via social media, who asks for the money upfront. A way to avoid this when buying online is only doing it through reputable marketplaces who act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers.
- Romantic partnerships: this one is especially common when it comes to single senior citizens. They establish a “relationship” online, and the other person sends them pictures and loving messages. Usually, the scammer will wait for a few months before talking about financial difficulties and asking for money.
A handy way to protect senior citizens against fraud and telemarketing scams is to go through this checklist together:
- Do you know the caller? If not, don’t answer. If you have already answered because you were not sure, hang up.
- If they call and say they are related to you, but you don’t recognize them, hang up.
- Never answer emails that ask you for personal and financial information
- Insurance companies never ask for personal data over the phone. If you are not sure, hang up and call your provider, or tell them you will personally go to their offices. This applies to email too.
- Investment opportunities are never presented over the phone or via email. If you are interested in investing your money we can look at options together.
- Set up two-step verification options for online stores and marketplaces. Never send money to someone you don’t know.
- If you want to try online dating, there are reputable sites for it, and money should never be part of the equation.
Protecting the elderly against scammers is a matter of healthy communication. If you believe that scammers are targeting someone you know, it should be immediately reported to the authorities. You can find resources and information on the FBI’s website, or the National Council on Aging website. Visiting these sites with your loved ones may prevent them from being victims of scams and better understand how to protect themselves. Because scammers are always looking for new ways to target the elderly, they should feel comfortable talking about anything that’s uncommon or makes them feel uncomfortable.