Gary Johnson, of the Better Business Bureau, visited River Pointe in June. He talked with a group of residents about various scams and frauds that target seniors, and how seniors can protect themselves against fraudulent activity. Take this time to refresh your own memory, and share this information with others…
Some of the most frequent scams start in the form of a phone call
You might receive a phone call claiming to be your bank or the IRS, asking for information such as:
- Your Name
- Your Address
- Your Account Number
- Your Social Security Number
HANG UP!! THESE INSTITUTIONS WILL NEVER CALL YOU.
They already have your information and would not contact you to verify it.
Screen ALL phone calls. The Do-Not-Call List, Does Not Matter. Fraudulent companies will pay whatever fines necessary to make money. This includes claiming to be from Microsoft or another Service Provider (such as Cable or Utilities): If you did not call for a service, DO NOT BOTHER.
One phone call scam involves the caller claiming they had to adjust their headset, and then asking, “Can you hear me?” – DO NOT SAY YES! The scammer will record any affirmative answer (“yes” “sure” or “okay”), and use it to prove you agreed to purchase whatever they are selling.
Pay To Get A Prize is another scheme. For example: “You’ve won the Publisher’s Clearing House, but you must pay $1900 for taxes for the money, the car, etc. SCAM!
High Pressure Charities are another form of fraud. A fake charity will call asking for money. It is best to say either nothing or “I’ve already done my giving this year!” then hang up. It is great to give locally to known charities, but if you do want to donate to larger charities, the Better Business Bureau monitors many of them at give.org
A final phone scam is the “Help Me Grandma” call. A scammer will call claiming to be a grandchild in need of money. NEVER WIRE MONEY. Scammers may even try to use similar sounding names or other distractions to try to get a person to send them money.
Some scams come in other forms…
Remember there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Some scams will offer a free lunch in exchange for attending a seminar. This is almost always a scam. They expect you to buy something, or will get your personal information to use later.
One scam that those living in senior living communities don’t have to worry about is the, “We’re doing work in your neighborhood and can offer you a discount to do the same work on your home” Scam. Some seniors might think they should just get the work done now, especially if they have noticed a personal decline physically, but don’t fall for it! Contractors are monitored by the Better Business Bureau, and can be tracked simply entering in the city you are searching in on their website. Any time someone claims an offer is “only good today,” it’s probably a scam. Best just to say you’re not interested.
Be sure you are also double-checking bills and statements, from banks and credit/debit cards for unexpected charges. Check your credit report as well, especially for unauthorized accounts in your name. The sooner you catch fraudulent activity, the better. It becomes harder to trace over the course of several billing cycles.
Computers and mobile devices, while great for convenience and communication, are becoming an increasing threat to seniors. E-mail scams, pop-ups, and malicious websites pose serious threats to us all. Always close out of pop-up windows. Do not open e-mails from unknown senders. Do not visit websites you don’t trust. If you have questions about whether something is a scam or not, check with your local Better Business Bureau.
A final, very upsetting scam is when friends, family, or other beneficiaries threaten to take away an elder’s money in order to get them to cooperate, or because they claim they need the money now…
There seems to be no end to the ways scammers operate. The most helpful advice we got was:
- Only send money to extremely well-known sources
- Do not answer phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize
- Use caution when opening e-mails
- Pay attention to what you are clicking on when online
- Get a second opinion from a trusted friend or family member – or better yet, check out all the Better Business Bureau has to offer
Some quick reminders to also keep your ID Secure, and shred anything with an account number on it.
Here at River Pointe, we take this topic very seriously. Our Staff is trained to recognize financial exploitation of our residents. Our small community allows us to get to know one another and recognize changes in behavior. We hope this information has been beneficial to you, and that you help us spread awareness about scams and fraud targeted toward seniors. If you believe your loved one has reached a point they can no longer care for themselves, give us a call today to see how we can help: 218-287-6900.