“Senior scamming” is a phenomenon that has increased with the widespread advances in internet technology. Such technological resources have made it easier for skilled con artists to disguise themselves as credible marketers. Seniors, having the most concentrated wealth of any other age group, appear to be easy targets of such scams as they likely have the least in-depth experience with new technology. However, sometimes these young swindlers may mistakenly underestimate how smart some older folks really are. There are several effective ways to identify scams and to react strategically when one is suspected.
The way it works is this. Someone will contact you with a very specific purpose or special offer that seems highly believable. This could be a representative calling you, a company emailing you or a service approaching you. They impress you as someone you should, in theory, be able to trust. From here, a few things can happen.
One, they will suggest that there is a problem. This type of scam often appears in the form of a phone call or an email.
For calls, the person on the other end of the phone will have crafted a convincing scenario, portraying themselves as an authority figure, such as a doctor, Medicare representative or even connection to a “family member.” The “story” they’ve concocted revolves around the urgent need for the victim to disclose personal information to rectify the situation.
Consider the following example, which happened to my mother.
You receive a call from the pharmacist one day. There was a problem processing the payment for your monthly prescription. Would you mind repeating your credit card number over the phone to complete the transaction?
Yes, I would.
Other than the fact that this caller claims to be your pharmacist, how can you verify that they really are who they say they are? Asking questions back to them first is a wise strategy to determine if the caller is genuine. Which prescription are you referring to? What was the denied card number? Better yet, tell them you’ll call them back with the information when you have time. Don’t use the phone number they provide, call your local pharmacy and speak to the manager, or visit in person to ensure the request is real.
Fortunate enough, my mother escaped the repercussions of being scammed. Had our usual pharmacist not been a close family friend, she may have fallen victim to the scam.
The protocol for email scams is a little different.
Emails may be the trickiest ones of them all as it is relatively easy to make them appear reliable with just some professional dialogue or an impressive-looking company logo.
Let’s say you receive an email from your online bank. Your credit scores have changed! Click on the link below to view your scores.
Don’t click the link.
It will connect to a site that will ask for account information. Once this is disclosed, there’s no going back. The next step will be a series of fraudulent charges and a big headache to try and fix. You can wave goodbye to your bank balance.
Make sure to always be on the lookout for a credibility breach. For emails, something as little as a spelling error could qualify. For example, my dad recently received an email from “Cedit Warning” regarding his credit scores. As silly as it seems, it’s true. Con artists may know their way around technology, but they’re certainly not English majors.
How to React
When in doubt, your first move should be to directly contact the company in question. Customer service contact information can be found on the company’s official website. A personal call will quickly reveal the presence of every problem requiring your immediate attention.
One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re being scammed is to type the contact number or email address of the questionable source into a Google search engine. Many of these scams have a previous history, and people have already posted online warnings for newly contacted people.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that these scams are all directly related to your bank account. It’s not always that easy. Many con artists, at least the clever ones, are more subtle.
Some con artists will offer a product or service for an unbelievably low price.
Take, for instance, a scenario that happened to my grandmother one time when she went grocery shopping.
She parked at Costco and a man approached her as she stepped out of her car. He offered to replace her cracked windshield for a reasonable price while she grocery shopped. All she would have to do was pay him, and then her windshield would be fixed by the time she came back out. How convenient!
A very appealing offer, indeed, but how do you know this person is a qualified repairman? How do you know they will honor the agreement once already paid? In a situation like this, it’s always smart to step back, ask for identification, and record their vehicle’s license plate.
Now, my nana is a smart cookie, the University graduate that she is. But, the offer seemed favorable, so she followed through. As you might have guessed, she loaded her groceries into a car with, still, a cracked windshield.
Rule of thumb: Never pay someone for a job until it is finished.
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
This goes for all kinds of offers and rewards. I promise, the Egyptian prince does not really need to store his lofty inheritance in your bank account.
None of the examples mentioned are fabricated. They represent real situations that have occurred in the past. Senior scamming is real, and it is wise to adopt an awareness of it into your everyday life to protect your personal finances for the future.
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