It seems unconscionable to most, but unscrupulous men and women often target senior citizens to rob them of their money or identities. When scammers know how to confuse and gain the trust of the elderly, they have virtual free reign of bank accounts, personal information, and even assets.
If you are concerned about the well-being of a senior in your life, or if you are a senior who wants to protect yourself, take some time to learn about common risks and scams. Some of the more mainstream scams involve prescription drugs, investments, charities, reverse mortgages, and “free” prizes. By becoming familiar with these and other types of scams, you or an elderly loved one will be in a position easily determine the legitimacy of the offer.
While it’s important to be aware of the scams that senior citizens most often fall prey to, it’s even more important to know how to prevent being a victim. Here are some techniques to help avoid potentially devastating thefts:
Be suspicious. If you or a loved one is generally trusting, being skeptical can be difficult. However, being generally suspicious of cold calls and unsolicited letters and emails that promise huge benefits is an effective way to stay protected. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Ask questions. Before you or your loved one does business with a new company, obtain a name, address, phone number, and website for the person you’re talking to. Just asking a few questions can be enough to scare some con artists away.
Become familiar with online safety. Surf only reputable websites, adjust email spam settings to the highest level, and never share personal information like Social Security numbers with anyone online – even if it seems as though your bank is requesting it. Call the bank first.
Never give personal information online. An investment company or charity will never ask for a Social Security number via email. If you or your loved one receive an email requesting personal data, bank routing numbers, or other private information, it’s probably a scam.
Don’t make hasty decisions. If a telemarketer pressures you to make an immediate decision, hang up the phone. Never make a decision to hand over money until you’ve had time to do careful research.
Check the BBB. The Better Business Bureau is a fantastic tool for confirming the legitimacy of financial institutions, charities, and other organizations. Always check with the BBB before offering up funds. If a company isn’t registered with the BBB, it could be fraudulent. A quick Internet search might also turn up information from people who have been scammed by a similar scheme.
Invest carefully. Most legitimate investments are done with the assistance of a trusted financial advisor, not a random acquaintance or someone who cold-calls your house. It takes only a few minutes to contact your bank or planner, and it could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Find a planner or counselor you trust, and run all investment ideas by him or her first.
Protect others. If you think you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam, contact your local police department to file a report. You can also let the FBI know about the scam artist by submitting your information to the FBI tips website.