As our loved ones age, they become targets for scammers and fraudsters looking to take advantage of their trust, vulnerability, and wealth. While you can’t protect your parents from becoming a victim, you can reduce their risk. In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis provides invaluable advice on recognizing scams, establishing safeguards, and fostering open conversations with your elderly parents.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The evolving landscape of senior citizen scams.
- Ten common scams that target seniors.
- Practical steps for avoiding senior citizen scams.
- How adult children can have conversations with their parents about senior citizen scams.
- And more!
California Mobility’s Senior Citizen Scam Statistics | RoboKiller | TrueCaller | Telemarketers | How to Create Super Secure Passwords | Bautis Financial: 8 Hillside Ave, Suite LL1 Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000 | Schedule an Introductory Call
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s show I’m going to discuss a topic that holds importance for many of us – protecting our beloved parents from the threat of senior citizen scams.
In a world where technology continues to advance and scammers become more sophisticated, it’s crucial for us, as adult children, to understand what scams are out there and how we can keep our parents safe from them.
As sons and daughters, it’s our hope that our parents’ golden years are filled with joy, security, and trust. Yet, the sad reality is that scammers often target our seniors, exploiting their vulnerability.
In this episode, we’ll go over some of the tools you can use in the line of defense against scams – from phishing emails and fraudulent phone calls to identity theft and financial exploitation. We’ll also discuss open communication strategies that bridge the generational gap, enabling you to have these important conversations with your parents about staying safe on and offline.
Understanding the Threat
To begin, let’s shed light on the evolving landscape of senior citizen scams.
The FBI estimates that senior citizens lose more than three billion dollars each year to financial scams, with monetary losses totaling more than 18 million dollars.
According to California Mobility’s Senior Citizen Scam Statistics, an individual senior loses an average of $500 or more when scammed.
Seniors are often targeted due to their trusting nature. Scammers exploit this through various means, from convincing phone calls to sophisticated online phishing attempts.
10 Common Scams That Target Seniors
Here are some of the most common ways senior citizens are targeted.
1. Phone Call Scams
In these impersonation scams, scammers post as government officials, utility company representatives, or even family members in distress. They often claim that there’s an urgent issue that requires immediate payment or personal information.
For example, a person may call you and state they work for your utility company. Usually, they will say you have an outstanding balance due at an accurate, previous address. They may say they are making the call as a courtesy before they send the bill to collections. If you ask them, they might give you an employee ID or a phone number you can call back.
But, we should not give away any sensitive information to someone who calls us. Instead, hang up the phone on the potential scammer, look up the valid business phone number, and call that. Many scammers are trying to get ahead of this by giving you a phone number before you hang up, which just traces back to the scammer.
If you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t pick up the call. You can also register your phone number with the national do not call registry – it’s not perfect, but it can help. In addition, some phone carriers have a spam call blocking feature that’s free. There are also paid spam blocking apps like RoboKiller and TrueCaller.
2. Phishing Emails
Phishing emails appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or well-known organizations. These emails typically ask for sensitive information like account numbers, passwords, or credit card balances.
You can show your parents how to hover over a link to see the true address. If they are not sure that the link is legitimate, don’t click on it.
3. Tech Support Scams
In these scams, cyber criminals contact seniors claiming to be technical support representatives from reputable companies. They inform the victims of fictitious computer issues and offer to fix them remotely for a fee, gaining access to personal and financial information.
According to California Mobility’s Senior Citizen Scam Statistics, older adults who experienced scams reported tech support scams more than any other type of fraud. They were five times more likely to lose money in these tech support scams than younger consumers.
4. Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
Here, Seniors are told they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, but to claim their prize, they need to pay taxes, fees, or other expenses upfront. Of course, there is no actual prize, and the scammers pocket the money.
5. Romance Scams
Scammers create fake online profiles and build romantic relationships with seniors, often through online dating websites. After gaining their trust, the scammers ask for money for various reasons, like medical expenses or travel costs.
Romance scams cause the largest losses for seniors, reaching an average of $10,000 for those aged 70-79, according to California Mobility’s Senior Citizen Scam Statistics.
6. Investment Scams
Seniors are often targeted with fraudulent investment opportunities promising high returns. Scammers pressure them into making hasty decisions without proper research, resulting in financial loss.
7. Medicare and Health Insurance Fraud
In these instances, seniors are contacted by scammers pretending to be Medicare representatives. They ask for personal information, including Social Security numbers, under the guise of updating records or offering new benefits.
9. Charity and Donation Scams
Scammers exploit seniors’ generosity by posing as charitable organizations or disaster relief funds. They request donations for fake causes, diverting the money for their own gain.
If you want to learn more about charity and donation scams, there’s a really good series on HBO called Telemarketers. It’s about two workers at a telemarketing call center in New Jersey that are under the impression that they’re raising money for firefighter and police charities… but the money is actually going to their employers. When the company is eventually shut down, they try to expose the telemarketing industry.
10. Identity Theft
Seniors’ personal information is stolen and used to commit financial fraud, open credit accounts, or make unauthorized purchases.
Practical Steps for Protection
Preventing these scams involves education. Here are some practical tips you can share with your parents to prevent them from falling victim.
Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Communication
Don’t trust emails, phone calls, or messages from unknown sources. Be cautious, even if the message seems urgent or official. Before taking any action, verify the sender’s identity.
If you receive a suspicious email, call, or message, discuss it with a trusted friend, family member, or caregiver before taking any action. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you recognize potential scams.
Avoid Rushed Decisions
Scammers often pressure victims to make quick decisions. Take your time to think things through and verify the legitimacy of offers before agreeing to anything.
Be wary of any request for money or personal information that evokes fear, sympathy, or urgency.
Use Strong Passwords
Create strong, unique passwords for online accounts. Include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using easily guessable information like birth dates or names. Make sure each account has a unique password.
We have an entire blog post about how to create super secure passwords…
Related: How to Create Super Secure Passwords
Only Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks
If you’re using Wi-Fi at home, secure your network with a strong password to prevent unauthorized access to your devices and personal information. When out of the home and on an unsecured network, do not log into any of your accounts.
Use Caller ID and Call Blocking
Enable caller ID on your phone to see the caller’s number and name. Use the call blocking feature to avoid receiving unwanted calls from telemarketers and scammers.
Never Share Personal Information
Avoid giving out sensitive information like:
- Social Security numbers
- Bank account details
Stay Private on Social Media
Be cautious about sharing personal information on social media platforms. When possible, keep your account private.
Scammers can use this information to target you with tailored scams.
Regularly Review Financial Statements
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. Report any discrepancies to your financial institution immediately.
Remember that scammers are skilled at creating convincing scenarios. If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it’s important to take a step back and investigate further. By staying cautious and informed, you can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to scams.
How to Empower Open Conversations
Communication is key here. But when it comes to having an open conversation about online safety, we must be sensitive and patient. Here’s how I recommend approaching this topic:
- Choose the Right Time and Place: Select a comfortable and relaxed setting where both you and your parents can have a focused conversation without distractions.
- Express Concern and Care: Start the conversation by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being. Let them know that you want to have this discussion because you care about their safety in the digital world.
- Share Relevant Stories: You can come prepared with news articles about online scams and their consequences. This can make the threat more tangible and relatable. Unfortunately, with a quick google search, you will see lots of harrowing stories of scams.
- Emphasize Their Expertise: Acknowledge their life experience and wisdom, and express that you value their insights. This can build their confidence and create a space where they feel comfortable sharing their concerns and questions.
- Share Your Own Learning Journey: Discuss your own experiences with online safety and scams. Share any mistakes you’ve made and what you’ve learned from them. This can encourage them to open up about their own concerns.
- Explain Common Scams: Provide a simple overview of common online scams, emphasizing that scammers use various tactics to trick even the most cautious individuals.
- Offer Practical Tips: Gently offer practical tips for identifying scams, such as recognizing suspicious email addresses, verifying the authenticity of websites, and being cautious about sharing personal information.
- Address Their Concerns: Give them space to voice their concerns, questions, and any fears they might have about using technology.
- Introduce Resources: Share trustworthy resources, such as websites, videos, articles, or podcasts that provide more information about online safety and scams. This allows them to learn at their own pace.
- Offer Support: Let them know that you’re always there to provide guidance and help if they encounter any suspicious activity online. Make them feel comfortable reaching out without hesitation.
Building trust and ensuring your parents feel comfortable discussing these topics is pivotal.
As we wrap up, remember that protecting our parents from senior citizen scams is more than an added responsibility – it really is an act of love.
That concludes today’s episode. I will leave all of the resources we discussed in the show notes, as well as some additional resources we have on this topic. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, and stay safe out there.
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