How to Protect Seniors from Phone Scams

How to Protect Seniors from Phone Scams

It is an unfortunate part of everyday life that scammers exist, callously attempting every day to extort money or personal information from thousands of unsuspecting people. And while many people today are savvy and aware of scammers and are well able to protect themselves so as not to fall victim to their crooked attempts, there is one group that still remains a lucrative target.

It is the elderly, and every year, scammers as a whole manage to acquire billions of dollars from senior citizens through a variety of scams designed especially for them. It’s because scammers know that senior citizens are less likely to be aware of the many different types of scams that exist. It’s also because scammers can more easily play on seniors’ emotions, either attempting to scare them, appeal to their love of their grandchildren or excite them with news of having won a prize.

Being isolated from children that have moved away, health issues and a trusting nature also make senior citizens more vulnerable targets than younger generations. And while there are many ways that scammers may attempt victimize a person, such as the internet or email, seniors are typically targeted via phone call.

Types of Phone Scams to Be Aware Of

Phone scams come in many different forms. Some of the most common types of phone scams targeting seniors include:

  • A scammer pretends to be a government official from the IRS, FBI or other agency, or a representative from Medicare or the Social Security Administration. The scammer attempts to get personal information from the target, which can later be used for the purposes of identity theft.
  • A scammer pretends to be a grandchild and delivers a heartfelt story. The story can range from being arrested in a foreign country to simply having trouble paying the rent. The ultimate goal is, of course, to trick the grandparent into sending money.
  • During tax season, a scammer may call and claim to be from the IRS, stating that the target owes tax money and will be arrested if they do not pay up right away.
  • A scammer will call and claim to be from a prize center or some other type of organization that has picked the target as the recipient of a prize. In order to claim the prize, the target is required to first send money in order to fulfill the prize release requirements.

There are other scams, of course, and if a target falls victim to one, they are frequently targeted again and again.

How to Protect Seniors From Phone Scams

Unfortunately, simply warning seniors about phone scams isn’t enough. Individuals seeking to ensure that their parents and grandparents are protected from phone scams must take a more proactive role. Even many bank tellers and other representatives at financial institutions are being trained to detect if a senior citizen appears stressed when making a large withdrawal, or if they are making many withdrawals, which could be a sign that the individual is being scammed.

For starters, educating your parents or grandparents about scammers and their tactics will serve better than simply stating, “Watch out for phone scams.” Tell them about the types of scams mentioned above, and let them know that officials from the government or other organizations will never simply just call — they normally initiate contact in writing.

Regularly calling or visiting can make you aware of whether or not your loved one has been targeted by a scammer. But for instances where you aren’t always able to be around, you can place a note by the phone that states “Never Give Out Personal Information Over the Phone to Someone You Don’t Know.” This can serve as a useful reminder when you are absent.

You may also be able to set up specific safety protocols at the bank, with the senior’s permission, of course. For example, you could limit the amount of withdrawal a senior might be able to make, preventing them from withdrawing and sending large amounts of cash. Scammers typically ask for wire transfers because they can use phony ID and there is no way for the victim to retrieve the cash back once it is sent.

Further educate your parents or grandparents that scammers have also often done their own homework and may use familiar names (like grandchildren) in order to appear more convincing. Caller ID should be installed on all senior’s phones, and if a number or name appears unfamiliar, seniors should be instructed that to say that they would call back the number shortly. If it is a fake number or name, they will typically be unable to call back, and the scammer’s efforts will fail.

You can also make your parent’s or grandparent’s phone number an unlisted number, significantly cutting down or eliminating any possible phone calls from scammers.

Additionally, they should know that a real prize center would never attempt to collect fees before distributing the prize. Additionally, if they don’t remember entering a contest, chances are it is a fake call.

If your parent or grandparent does fall victim to a phone scammer, don’t scold or blame them. This will only prevent them from reporting any suspicious activity in the future. Instead, simply remind them that the age-old adage of never talk to or trust strangers still holds true.

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