Helping Seniors Avoid Scams

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Senior citizens are usually great people, and many older folks enjoy a secure financial situation. Seniors tend to maintain good credit ratings, lots of them have had time to pay off their homes, and many even live comfortably because they worked hard to build a retirement nest egg. These things that make elderly people financially secure might also make them an attractive target for con artists and scammers.

The Internet is a great tool, and it can be very beneficial for senior citizens because the web allows older people to shop and connect online without having to do a lot of traveling. Unfortunately, some elderly people might be too trusting and naive, or simply unfamiliar with technology, and this can make them easy pickings for hackers and other Internet scam artists.

Tips to Help Senior Citizens Avoid Scams

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, even cautions that seniors have become attractive targets of fraud because they may have been raised with a more trusting attitude in prior decades when things were simpler. While nobody is advocating the removal of the rose colored glasses that your sweet grandmother wears, it might be a good idea to educate her about common online and offline scams.

These are some problems with seniors and scams that the FBI reports:

  • If something seems to good to be true, it very well might be. If it is anything from an offer for life insurance to an email with a suspicious link, make sure that your loved one knows to ask for advice before diving in.
  • If she suspects she may have already been scammed, let her know that she should feel comfortable coming to you or reporting it the police. One problem may be that elderly people are embarrassed to report scams because they fear that others will try to take away their independence because they will assume the seniors cannot take care of themselves any longer.
  • Try to get your elderly family member to write down as many details of a suspected fraud as possible. It is true that many seniors are afflicted with failing memories, and that is why they often make poor witnesses.

Common Senior Scams to Avoid

As part of the educational process, you might remind your parent or grandparent that scammers might knock on the door, call on the phone, and invade their email boxes.

  • Phone solicitors: Never give money or even any information to people who call you with unsolicited offers on the phone. Even if the elderly person recognizes the name of the company, she should ask for information in writing before giving out financial information or inviting the caller in for an appointment.
  • Emails: How many jokes have we heard about the Nigerian prince emails? Well, your grandma might not be familiar with those jokes yet. Make sure you tell her not to open any mysterious emails or click any links. If she does not recognize the sender, the emails should go straight to her SPAM bucket. Some clever hackers make emails that look just like they came from a bank or credit card company, but the links lead somewhere else entirely. Let your family member know that she should go directly to the bank’s website if she wants to log in, and she should not follow a link from an email.
  • Door-to-Door Sales: Not so long ago, it was common to have the Avon Lady or Fuller Brush man arrive at the door. There are still legitimate door-to-door salesmen around, but there are also criminals who are waiting for a chance to be let into a home. Salesmen and service people should arrive by appointment only. Also, services only should get paid for after they have been performed.

The best thing you can do for an elderly friend or loved one is to let them know that you are a trusted source of advice and assistance. Nobody wants to seem foolish, so you have to make sure that your elderly parent or grandparent knows that you only want to help. After all, seniors are not the only ones who get taken in by scams.