Protect Against Scams and Fraud
Did you know that people over the age of 60 are at least twice as likely to be targeted by scammers than most other age groups? That’s because seniors typically have a lifetime of savings, and scammers are keenly aware of this fact.
According to AARP, for every one scam that’s reported, there are 25 more that go unreported. Smartphones, online shopping, and social media have all increased the number of opportunities for scammers to prey on older adults. The majority of seniors want access to technology, in order to connect with their family and friends, but these tools can be dangerous if not used properly.
One risk is that hackers can install malicious software on devices without the knowledge of the owner of the device. Once that happens, the hackers can access personal information and commit fraud. We’ve compiled a list of some basic steps that older adults and their family members can take to protect themselves against fraud.
- When possible, set up direct deposit for your benefit checks and IRS refunds.
- Never give out any personal information if you did not initiate the contact. This applies to individuals who call you by phone, send you an email or come to your door. Simply say you don’t give out information and end the conversation.
- Don’t send passwords, your social security number, or other account information in emails, even to known contacts.
- Shred all bills, statements, and any other documents with account information.
- Don’t open emails from unfamiliar senders or click on a pop-up message that suddenly appears on your device screen. Pop-ups are often a sign that your device has been infiltrated by malicious software, also called malware, or another type of hacking. Seek guidance from a trusted family member or a professional computer consultant to remove the suspicious message.
- Don’t sign up for sweepstakes or magazine subscriptions services. These are fraudulent companies that offer multi-year subscriptions to many different magazines through one account. They draw unsuspecting seniors in by offering great savings, a gift, or a chance to win a prize. If you want to subscribe to a newspaper or magazine, purchase the subscription directly from the publisher of the specific publication you wish to receive.
Tips for family members of older adults
Be aware that it can be difficult for some seniors to protect themselves from scammers. They could be vulnerable when someone calls claiming a family member is in an “emergency” and needs funds. Or the older adult might feel they are taking the burden off family members by confiding in someone who has offered to help. Having conversations about these risks from time to time is a good reminder for the senior and helps family members identify changes in the older adult’s level of vulnerability.
Protecting older loved ones who want to maintain full control and privacy over their financial matters and online communications can be a sensitive and challenging situation. You can still offer recommendations to vetted and trusted consultants and advisors who can help ensure the older adult has protection against fraud.
You can also watch for signs that things may not be right, such as:
- An excessive quantity of piled up magazines
- Unneeded subscriptions or deliveries
- Major, unnecessary purchases
- Utility services that have been shut off
- A new acquaintance who quickly gains excessive influence
- Family members suddenly aren’t allowed to enter the senior’s home