Fraud is growing, becoming more sophisticated, and seniors are often the target. According to newly released numbers from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers reported losing almost $8.8 billion to scams and fraud in 2022, up 30 percent from 2021. Fortunately, once you know what to look out for, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself. FirstLantic highlights some of the most common scams that target older Americans and the important measures you can follow to ensure you do not become a victim.
- Fake Lottery is perpetuated through a phone call stating that you’ve won millions of dollars, but you need to pay administrative fees or taxes to receive the money.
- Grandparent Scam is when you receive a call or email from someone posing as law enforcement or a medical professional claiming to represent a family member in an emergency situation. They might say that your relative has been in an accident or they’ve been arrested and need bail money. They might also pose as your “grandchild” and beg you not to tell their parents, asking that money be wired immediately to pay medical bills or legal fees.
- Fake Viruses or Ransomware can appear in the form of a pop-up window simulating virus-scanning software to fool you into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus allowing scammers direct access to your computer. Also, some pop-ups claim that the computer has been locked and payment is required quickly, or your files will be deleted.
- Tech Support Scammers claim to be from legitimate companies but demand payment for unnecessary tech support services or to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
- Email/Phishing are email messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking you to “update” or “verify” your personal information. Scammers also use LinkedIn and other social media networks like Facebook to gather information.
- Online Dating Scams use a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust to manipulate and/or steal from you.
- Crime or Social Security fraud usually takes the form of a person calling you and telling you that your name or social security number was used in a crime, such as a stolen car or illegal drug purchase. Or they might state that your Social Security number was suspended for suspicion of unlawful activity. If this happens, hang up immediately and call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
- Fake Charities prey on your willingness to help others by using a natural disaster to solicit money for a fraudulent charity. Before giving to any charity, you can research them on sites like Charity Navigator.
- IRS or Medicare impersonators will call you claiming to be an authorized representative and ask you to provide personal information over the phone.
All of these scams seem legitimate, but they rely on fear and a sense of urgency. It should be a red flag if you are told you have to give money right away or there will be consequences. So, what else can you do to protect yourself?
- Be skeptical and cautious when dealing with unsolicited phone calls, emails, or messages. Only provide personal information or financial details if you have vetted it first. Call your financial institution directly on the phone number provided on your statements or credit cards to confirm that they were the ones that actually contacted you.
- Protect personal and financial information, and don’t share details online or over the phone, especially your social security number. Regularly monitor your financial accounts for any unauthorized activity and immediately notify your credit card company or bank if you notice something suspicious.
- Stay informed about the latest fraud schemes targeting seniors. You can go to the FTC’s website to find out some of the latest scams and common tactics that are being used. You can also check AARP for articles and updates on the latest scams affecting older Americans.
- Create strong passwords for your online accounts and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. While it may seem more straightforward to go with something obvious, like your birthdate, that is the easiest way for fraudsters to get access to your account. Use a password manager to securely store your passwords so you don’t need to remember them.
- Be cautious of phishing attempts, where scammers impersonate legitimate organizations to trick you into revealing personal information. Verify the source of emails or messages before clicking on any links or providing any information. Many times, the email, at first glance, will look legitimate, but if it is unsolicited, it is better to call the company and check before you click.
- Avoid making hasty decisions or being pressured into making financial transactions. Take your time to research and verify offers or investment opportunities thoroughly.
- When in doubt, consult a family member, friend, or financial advisor before making significant financial decisions. They can provide guidance and help you assess the legitimacy of offers or requests.
- Register with the Do Not Call Registry to reduce unwanted telemarketing calls and minimize the chances of falling victim to phone scams.
- Shred sensitive documents like financial statements, medical records, and other sensitive documents to prevent criminals from accessing your personal information from discarded paperwork.
- When shopping online, use reputable websites with secure payment methods. Look for “https” in the website address, indicating a secure connection, and review customer reviews or ratings before making purchases.
- Keep software updated with the latest security patches and updates to help protect against malware and vulnerabilities that scammers may exploit.
- If you encounter or suspect fraud, don’t be embarrassed. Report it to the relevant authorities, such as local law enforcement or the FTC. Prompt reporting can help prevent others from becoming victims.
You can also consider using a fraud monitoring service. Fraud monitoring continuously scans all of your account activity and transactions to identify signs of fraud. By analyzing vast amounts of data, they can spot anomalies and flag those transactions. Remember, remaining vigilant and skeptical is essential, even if someone appears trustworthy. By following these preventive measures, you can reduce your risk of being a victim.
FirstLantic cares about your well-being. If you or someone you know needs home care assistance in Florida, FirstLantic can help. We are locally owned and operated, providing our patients with the highest quality senior in-home care solutions, including hourly care in Fort Lauderdale (Broward County) and Delray Beach (Palm Beach County) since 2000. Click here to contact us.
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