During the week of November 12-18 we recognize Fraud Awareness Week. Over the years scammers have gotten extremely creative with how to trick us, the consumer, into falling for a scam. During this week it is important to bring attention and education to the many internet and phone scams that occur on a daily basis and target people of all ages.
Technology has endless benefits. It serves as an intergenerational bridge in many cases, and keeps families and friends constantly connected, but it is important to stay aware of scams in their many forms. These scams take advantage of new found interests in technology, combined with inexperienced users. According to USA News, “Folks age 65 and older are more likely to be targeted and to lose money if they are targeted.” The group most likely to be victimized are well-educated men over the age of 55 because, “they’re savvy, they think they know how to protect themselves and get taken.”
We are seeing an increase in older generations wanting to keep up to date with the newest technologies, but as seniors become more educated, scams become more sophisticated. These scams also play on the heartstrings of those being targeted and rely on the emotional connection of a child or grandchild.
If a senior has been scammed, it is often hard for them to admit to it because they feel ashamed or inept to handle the situation.
What is most worrisome, is that most seniors live on a fixed income and losing any amount of money to a scam may be a detrimental setback that they will have a hard time recovering from.
So how can we help? Education is a big piece of avoiding a scam. Knowing what to look for, what questions to ask, and what information not to give goes a long way in protecting the senior in your life from falling victim to a scam.
We will cover a few of the more common scams happening today, and what to tell the senior in your life to be on the lookout for if feel they might be being scammed.
Here are some common phone and internet scams to watch for and ways to prevent your loved ones from falling victim to cyber-crime.
1. The “Grandparent Scam”
This is a fairly common scam because there is a big payoff with minimal work. One may receive a call that starts out something like “Grandma it’s me” or “Hi Grandma do you know who this is?” Prompting the target to guess a name of a grandchild which the scammer will latch onto and use to fabricate a story. They might say “I need help with rent for the month, but I don’t want to bother Mom and Dad, can you help?” or “I’m traveling abroad and got in trouble- I need you to send me money, but please don’t tell my mom and dad.” This scam is troubling because it tugs at the familial heart strings.
The development of AI technologies has made it a lot easier for scammers to do things like, mimic someone’s voice or comb the internet to find personal information to incorporate in this scam.
What can you do to keep from falling victim? Stay informed! Check that the person calling is who they claim to be. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that only that person would know. More than likely, because the scammer won’t be able to answer, they will hang up. You should never be afraid to verify a story.
2. Fake Antivirus Software Scam
In this scam, pop-ups appear on your computer, telling the user their computer is infected and the only way to get rid of the virus is by clicking on the pop-up. In doing this, the user ends up downloading a real virus when they never had one to begin with.
Stay vigilant. You should never download anything from the internet or click on any email links or attachments unless you are positive of the source.
3. Computer Technology Scam
You may get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, McAfee or another technology company. The person may ask for permission to get remote access to your computer for “tech support”. To receive the tech support you may be asked to provide a credit card number, or be directed to a site to enter personal information. Be aware solicitations like this may also come in email form as well!
Know that companies like Microsoft are not constantly monitoring your computer, looking for problems. If someone contacts you about a problem with your computer, it’s most likely a scam.
According to the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, seniors are disproportionately targeted for computer technology scams. In October 2015, the FTC testified to Congress that 18,000 tech-support scam complaints were received in the first eight months of 2015! 56% of the victims were more than 60 years old.
4. IRS Scam
In this scam, taxpayers will get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The caller will tell them money is owed and demand immediate payment. Failure to comply will result in arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license.
Note: Generally, the IRS DOES NOT call people, they send letters. If anyone calls saying they are from the IRS-hang up!
5. Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam
An additional scam to mention is typically not technology based, though it can be. It will often arrive, claiming you are the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery you don’t even remember entering. Be aware – no, you are NOT that lucky. These letters might say something like “Congratulations, you just won the lottery”, with a request to deposit a large amount of money into your personal account. The only hang-up is that you need to immediately wire money into a foreign account to cover various taxes and administrative fees.
This is a scam, if you are ever lucky enough to win the lottery or any kind of sweepstakes taxes will be taken out before you receive any of the winnings.
The use of AI in scams – AI is a new and developing technology with unlimited potential. We know of a lot of good things that AI is capable of, but the flip side is, scammers are also taking advantage of this new technology. Using deepfake video or voice’s, scammers have made it even more difficult to decipher between the real and the AI technology.
Some tips when trying to decide if you are being scammed:
- Don’t trust caller ID – if you are suspicious, hang up and call the person on a trusted number that you know is theirs.
- Code word- it may sound over the top but consider having a word shared with your immediate family that only you know the meaning of.
- Pressure to act now – the need to react to a situation immediately is one sign of a scam
- Asking for money in unusual forms – wiring money, purchasing gift cards, having to pay to then get paid
- To good to be true – if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is…a scam
These are just a few of the many scams circulating today and unfortunately new, more intricately designed ones pop up every day. Although we can’t provide you with a list of every scam happening right now, we hope you feel better prepared when it comes to – what to look out for, what to question and what to click on (or not click on).
Trust your intuition, if you have a feeling something is off, don’t be afraid to verify. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. Whether you’ve fallen victim to a scam or feel as if you might be being scammed, call someone you trust and tell them what’s going on. You do not have to go through the experience alone and your family and loved ones will be happy that you asked for help.
At Northbridge, we do our best to educate our residents about new technologies and host technology hours where they are able to come and ask questions. It’s important to remember that the best way to protect your self or your loved one from falling victim to a scam, is education.
Discover life at a Northbridge community
If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals.
You’ll also discover many benefits in a Northbridge Senior Living community, including our Signature Program S.T.A.R. Club (Sharp Thinking, Active Residents) – which offers our residents several activities to participate in with others, including:
- Daily exercise group
- Walking club
- Tai Chi & Yoga
- Nutritional classes
- Library and book club
- Museum outings
- Artists in residence program
- Multi-generational music
- Genealogy Generations
We’re here to answer any of your questions and invite you to download our complimentary guide Just the Facts: Your Guide to Memory Care. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour.