Elderly Scams and How to Avoid Them

July 2, 2013

Photo by Dan Hankins, via Flickr

There are a variety of scammers out there these days. They sell fake designer bags, send emails about prize money, post “too good to be true” rental opportunities on craigslist. These days, preying on the elderly is, unfortunately, a popular one.

By researching the victim and confusing them over the phone, they end up trapping people into thinking their family members are in need of thousands of dollars. There are many things that the elderly can be aware of when confronted with a scammer on the phone and here are a few ways to keep the scammer from gaining your hard earned dollars.

  • Scammers know details. They have the ability to look up people online especially on social media sites which are dripping with information. You are especially vulnerable if your page doesn’t have all of their security measures in place. They can sound authentic if they get enough info on you or your loved ones.
  • Never volunteer information. They may try to ask you questions that will give them more information to work with. They might even ask you questions about other family members just to get names.
  • Ask questions. If it is a person saying they are your family member, turn the tables and ask them to give you answers that only that person would know. (i.e., date of last visit, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Call other family members or the person in question. To confirm that the information is true, if you can’t call the person that the call is about, call those who you feel might know about any emergency. Don’t hesitate to hang up and call them immediately.
  • Be aware of your disclosures online. Routinely check your privacy settings and be very aware of your posts on social networking sites. Sometimes the social media sites change/update settings without letting the user know and items become more public than they might think. Remind your friends and family to do the same.
  • Use your resources to educate yourself. The only way you can protect yourself from these scammers is to be aware. AARP has a group associated with the Attorney General called Colorado ElderWatch that assists with notifying the elderly of current scams. You can sign up online and you can also file a complaint there if you ever fall victim to a scam.

Ultimately, if you get a call that makes you uncomfortable, hang up immediately and call the police. You can file a complaint immediately. The downside to all of this is that they might not get caught, but you can help others by educating and spreading the word. We may not be able to nab the bandits, but we sure can keep them from hurting anyone else.