Many times, scammers present themselves and their scams in such a way that there doesn't seem to be any doubt their agenda is bogus. Some seniors may be able to easily spot a scam in the "long-lost relative" needing money wired immediately; or the "prince" who sends an email saying that if they cash this $300,000 check and send the money, they will be rewarded handsomely in return. But sometimes the scam isn't so obvious.
Tips to Protect Seniors from Fraud and Scams
NEVER use links from emails to enter personal information. You may think the email is legit, but scammers are smart and are able to very closely mimic a legitimate email — so they can trick you into entering your bank information and personal identifiers into their own database to use to scam you later. When an email states to "click here" for a super deal, to verify your information, to update your account, etc., DON'T click it.
If you do click, be wary if the website you're sent to looks real. Chances are, it is a fake. You can always do an Internet search for the actual website, or type in the website directly into the browser to do any ordering or registering. Then, always make sure the site is secure before entering information. That includes ensuring you are on a secure network (not a public one), and that the web address of the site begins with http>s; — the "s" means secure — or that it has a lock symbol on the search bar.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Did you just win a free trip to Hawaii? Or you're the lucky recipient of a year's worth of products from a steak-of-the-month club? Or your medical insurance representative noticed you paid higher premiums than required and you're due back thousands of dollars? While you certainly may have become that lucky, don't be too quick to start celebrating. Scammers like to catch you off guard and tell you some fantastic news that requires "no money or credit card" from you to redeem.
The catch? They just need your maiden name, birth date and Social Security number to verify. Oh, and by the way, that information can be used to gain access to your personal accounts for them to hack.
And if some prince or king from a far-off land contacts you, don't take the bait. Even if he says you will receive thousands of dollars from his riches if you cash this check for him, don't do it. We generally don't get something for nothing, and this is no different. Never, give anyone money if you don't know them.
Help your senior loved ones. Simply being aware and having conversations with senior loved ones can help prevent scams. Does mom have a shredder for unwanted credit card offers? Take her shopping and to lunch and when you get home, spend some time to teach her how to use the shredder. Does dad know how to pay his bills online? Set up a time to talk about secure online banking so he can stop using so many checks and be able to track his spending.
And just having an open dialogue with senior loved ones about their lives (did someone stop by to try and sell them gutters? Or did you notice that your loved one's checking account is low or that they are having money woes?) can prevent a scam because if they know they can call you with questions or concerns, they will. Open the door for discussion; offer to help or just listen.