It was my mom’s 77th birthday recently. I bought her a new, top-of-the-line smartphone to make it easier for us to be in touch when I travel. As timing would have it, not long after she got the phone, she received a call—from a fraudster! She reported the call to her phone provider and received a crash course on spoofing.
Here are some popular scams to be aware of:
Spoofing is when a fraudster makes your phone ring the call display shows that it’s coming from a legitimate institution such as the RCMP or a bank. Phone fraud is common with the elderly as they are more likely to answer a phone, are home more and might be curious to call an unknown number back. Scammers are also very skilled at targeting homes with seniors. Tell your parents it’s ok to not answer a call they don’t recognize, or to not call unknown numbers back, and to never give any information away over the phone to anyone, ever.
From the Nigerian Letter fraud to a fake bank email requesting you to change your password, phishing is a daily nuisance. However, as spammers have increased their skill in impersonating every major company from Amazon, PayPal, and all the major banks, educate your parents about what to do if they accidentally click a fraudulent link.
For starters, advise them that no legitimate bank would contact them via email or request information over the telephone. Alert them to the fact that email requests for LinkedIn connections, Twitter, Facebook and other social media are often used to catch victims when their guard is down. Teach your parents to log directly on to LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to accept connection requests – not via email. Install a solid anti-virus software on your parents’ computer, tablet and phone. Remember to caution them when opening attachments and set their spam filters to “sensitive”.
With seniors being home more often than any other demographic, they’re most vulnerable to in-person scammers. Advise them to limit the amount of cash in their home and to simply not answer the door. If your parents are computer savvy, consider installing a camera and intercom or utilize the services of a security company that offers a front door view. If your parent feels compelled to accept the sales offer, ensure they pay with a major credit card. That way, they will receive at least some protection from shoddy work. If someone won’t accept a credit card, this may be a good clue that they are not a legitimate business.
With interest rates at historical lows, be careful of promises of outsize savings or investment returns. This is a good time to hire a reputable investment advisor to oversee your parents’ finances. This way, if they are approached by a salesperson, they can direct the pitch to their advisor without offending anyone.
These scams, often conducted via the internet and social media can be very difficult for an isolated, aging senior to spot. Scammers win over the trust of an individual slowly, luring them over a period of months or even years. The goal is to siphon as much money as possible from their victim. This scam can be particularly cruel and devastating to a widow or widower. Knowing how to spot the red flags can protect your parents from undue financial loss and heartache.