What Seniors Need to Know About Scamming, Phishing and Fleecing

A previous post alluded to an upcoming post about online scams but when we got down to writing this, the subject was a bit bigger than we originally anticipated. So this is the first of a four part look at is at seniors and scams. First we'll take a look at some very contemporary scams children of aging parents should be aware of.

Scammers, spammers and phishers love to target the elderly. There is no shortage of scams out there but here is a look at a few that you might want to make your parents aware of. Be sure that both your parents are well aware of people's capacity for depravity. In the unfortunate case that your mom or dad is widowed they can be duped easily, even while they (and you) are still mourning.

Warn your parents ahead of time about buying things over the phone, or giving out credit card numbers online.

If your mom or dad is the type who embraces the Internet, banking online or using any kind of online payment system (i.e. Paypal), they need to know about phishing.

phishing for vulnerable seniorsPhishing is any attempt by unscrupulous people to acquire sensitive personal information like usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading – often very convincingly - as a trustworthy entity in any electronic communication. Typically, scammers will send an email that very cleverly masquerades as a warning or reminder from an online payment site, typically PayPal, eBay or an online banking website. The email will often have a sense of urgency that instills fear in the recipient.

Perhaps you have encountered phishing yourself and understand how convincing these emails can be. You and your parents need to remember that banks and financial institutions routinely promise that they "will never ask you for your personal information via phone or email."

If and when a user gets an email purportedly from a finance site such as these they should be very skeptical. Never click on any URL in an email. Instead, bookmark the official site then go to your bookmark if you receive an email that purports to be from a financial site you use. If you don't have it bookmarked, type the institution's official URL into your address bar.

I consider myself a reasonably web savvy guy and I've been phished in before. And I have lots of company in being duped in spite of thinking I'm reasonably savvy. (Thankfully I was immediately suspicious of the interaction and contacted my bank soon after then stopped anything harmful from happening.)

The Grandparent Scam
In this scam, an elderly person receives a call from someone who sounds convincingly like a grandchild who has gotten him or herself into trouble. Perhaps the "grandchild" will say they don't want their parents to know about it. Since the elderly person has a soft spot for grandkids, may be hard of hearing, and can be duped into thinking that cell phones or pay phones make voices "sound funny," this scam is surprisingly effective.

One sign of this scam is that the "grandchild" will ask that the money be sent by wire transfer, e.g. Western Union.

Your parents need to know that others have been duped by this trick and that any time they suspect this scam, a simple test is to ask the caller a question only a family member knows the answer to.

These are just a few of many scams, of course. Coming up we'll have a look at other typical scams, how to arm your parents against them and what to do if your parents have been scammed. You can also learn more about the variety of scams out there at stopseniorscams.org/

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