One in three senior citizens is the victim of financial abuse, according to a study done in 2016 by Time.com. Tragically, on average, victims lose about $36,000.
“Most people think (fraud) will never happen to them. But it does. And it does on a daily, hourly basis,” says Debra Whitman, public policy officer for the American Association of Retired Person (AARP).
Attractive to con artists because they usually have savings accounts and excellent credit, today’s senior citizens grew up in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, when people were raised to be polite and trusting. Scam artists exploit these traits because they know most seniors will find it difficult to confront, hang up, or just say no.
One of the most important steps toward fraud prevention is awareness.
If someone calls to offer you fast cash, it could be fraud.
If a telemarketer says you have a “limited” time to respond to his or her offer, it could be fraud.
If a caller promises something that sounds too good to be true, it could be fraud.
If a computer tech contacts you to say your software has a virus, it could be fraud.
If you click on an online offer that takes you to a flashing screen and impacts your computer’s speed, it could be fraud.
Not only are seniors more likely to be victimized, but they are less likely to report fraud than younger folks, for several reasons:
- They don’t realize they have been scammed.
- Either they don’t know who to report it to.
- They are too ashamed at having been scammed.
So how can you avoid fraud?
- Use strong passwords. Don’t use the word “password,” or 12345, which can easily be hacked.
- Don’t share your passwords or write them on post-it notes next to your computer.
- Be careful with social media posts. Set your privacy settings high. And don’t over-share. If you broadcast vacation plans, burglars and identity thieves may take advantage.
- Use only secure Wi-Fi networks. Don’t do online banking or share other sensitive information on public hotspots, such as libraries, hotels or coffee shops. Hackers can easily grab your information from an open network without ever touching your computer or your phone.
- Never open suspicious emails or click on links inside emails unless you are 100% certain of the sender. Your actual email provider, bank, Internet service, or the IRS will never ask for your personal information via email.
- Don’t click on pop-ups, even if they say offer quick-fixes. For example: “Your computer is slow. Click here to speed it up.”). Clicking might unleash a virus.
- Protect your identity. Don’t use your full name, date of birth, home address, email address, social security number to create passwords.
- If someone calls, offering or asking for anything, be suspicious. If you call the company, you can trust what the customer service rep says. So, if you wonder whether someone is legitimate, tell them you will call the company yourself. If they call you, they could be a scam artist.
- Refuse to give personal information by phone. Representatives from legitimate companies will understand this and should have security protocols in place to protect your personal information.
- Take your time. When in doubt, do research. Don’t feel pressured to act on anything a stranger tells you over the phone.
- Do your part. Report fraud. If you uncover a fraudulent operation, report the incident to the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). You can also report telemarketing fraud to the FBI.
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