Money doesn’t grow on trees. After years of building up bank accounts and investment funds, why let hard earned money fall into the hands of deceptive criminals?
Why are Seniors a Likely Target for Fraud?
While fraud can affect people of all ages, seniors are often a prime and common target. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, older Americans are more likely to be a victim of fraud for the five reasons:
- Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
- People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
- Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
- When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.
- Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim
10 Ways Seniors Can Prevent Fraud
Fraud comes in many different forms and through different channels. Whether it’s by phone, online or in-person, there are ways to decrease your chances of being scammed. Here are a few common tips to help avoid falling victim to this crime.
- Create strong passwords for online accounts containing capital and lower case letter as well as numbers and symbols.
- TIP: A great way to develop and REMEMBER such a password is tying it to a sentence, for example: “My daughter Judy was born in 1960” would translate to the password “MdJwbi1960”.
- Do not open emails from people you don’t know. Beware of emails with generic subjects like “Hi” or “Hello”, or no subject at all.
- Never trust a call or letter claiming you’ve won a lottery, contest or drawing if you have to:
- Pay a fee upfront to claim your prize.
- Deposit a check for more than you’ve won and wire the difference.
- Think twice before wiring money to any source as it is nearly impossible to ever get the funds back.
- Ask questions if you receive a call from a “family member” in need of emergency funds.
- A true family member or relative would be able to answer questions about other family members or traditions. If the caller can’t answer your questions correctly, hang up!
- Offer to call the “family member” back and use a phone number YOU have on file. DO NOT USE the number the caller provides to you.
- If you’ve purchased an item from an online source, like Craigslist or internet yard sales, and agree to meet in person, consider using the parking lot of your local police station to exchange money for goods.
- Never give personal information (social security number, date of birth, account numbers, PIN numbers, etc.) over the phone or on the internet unless you initiated the call and know how the information will be used.
*If you gave out information to such a source, contact your financial institution immediately.
- Avoid using public WiFi with a shared or unsecured password to transmit personal information because it can easily be intercepted by fraudsters.
- Do your RESEARCH!
- Example 1: IRS Scams
- If you receive a call from the IRS claiming you owe money, HANG UP and visit the IRS’ website for notices about current scams from IRS imposters.
- According to the IRS website (www.irs.gov), “The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. In addition, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.”
- Example 2: Contest Scams
- If you’ve won a contest you don’t remember entering, contact the church or organization sponsoring it for more information. It is also helpful to search online for articles regarding the validity of similar calls in your area or nationwide.
- Example 1: IRS Scams
- Call someone you trust for advice!
- Example: If your grandson calls for emergency funds, contact his parents before sending any money, providing account information, etc.
Fraud can rear its ugly head at any time and impacts people of all ages. From telephone scams to online hoaxes, it’s important to understand the types of fraud impacting your local community and scams occurring nationwide.
A good rule of thumb is NEVER respond to unexpected requests for money or personal information, and contact someone you trust when fraud knocks on your door.
You’ve built your nest egg, and now it’s time to enjoy it! After all, you earned it.