Scamming the Elderly

Getting a call from an elderly relative who has just been scammed can cause many emotions. Anger at the scammer, disappointment that the scam worked and fear that more harm is on the way are a few of them.

There are three main ways scammers are targeting our seniors, and they work enough of the time to make those who prey on weaker individuals keep at it. E-mails, phone calls and door to door folks all try to make money in this manner.

E-mail: At this point, some of our seniors are very good at the computer. Others are afraid they’ll break it if they try to turn it on. Many, however, are in the middle. Unless someone has set up a good junkmail program for them, they probably receive hundreds of scam e-mails daily.

The two I’ve seen the most recently claim to come from either the FBI or the New York State Police Department. I’ve contacted both, and neither of them use e-mail in this manner. If you get these e-mails, delete them and move on.

Another favorite on-line scam is called the Nigerian Scam. While these folks claim to be from many countries, it started out from that country. In it, there is a claim that the party has several million dollars, and if you will help him/her get it out by spending a couple thousand of your own money, it’s all yours. This is not true.

The telephone is another favorite tool. In fact, the Nigerian scammers are now using that method, though they claim to represent Publisher’s Clearing House. You can check out their website…they don’t need an upfront payment of any sort of you should happen to win their prize.

People supposedly representing banks also make phone calls, searching for information. They sound so legitimate, many people provide detailed information. In fact, they’ve also been known to give information about other family members…which goes over very poorly, let me tell you.

Those going door to door aren’t usually looking to scam you, they want to rob you. This usually involves two people. One will distract you while the other sneaks in and steals your valuables.

There are things you can do to protect yourself from these and other menaces. First of all, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s not true. There is no Nigerian prince with millions in his coffers waiting to trade it for U.S. money. In fact, the person is probably not in Nigeria. The person is probably in America.

Second, never give out any personal information, whether it’s on-line, on the phone or door to door. They don’t need much to steal your identity, wipe out your bank account and wrack up thousands in fraudulent spending. If you give out info on your family, the same will happen to them.

Third, no one from any legitimate organization is going to ask you for this information. That’s your clue that something’s not right. In some instances, the entities they are supposed to represent would like to know that you’ve received an e-mail or phone call asking for this. It’s bad for their reputation.

Lastly, if someone comes to your front door that you don’t recognize, don’t automatically open the door…even if they’re wearing some sort of uniform. Call the company they represent and make sure they’re legit. If the person that knocked is for real, he or she won’t mind the extra wait.

If you have an elderly relative, keep an eye out to make sure they aren’t being targeted. This is even more important if you know that they aren’t as able to differentiate between a real person and a scammer.

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