Scam Alert! 3 to Watch Out For, and What to Do

Senior lady with smartphone

The online world offers incredible opportunities to chat with our loved ones, find relevant facts and information, and watch our favorite show when we have time. But with that ease come serious risks, particularly for seniors.

In 2022, people aged 60 and over lost $3.1 billion to online fraud. Scams targeting older adults are on the rise. That’s because seniors are less likely to report suspected fraud and are perceived as wealthier and less tech savvy. But don’t log off just yet! There are ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim.

Knowledge is power – especially with online safety. So here are three scams to be aware of and how to handle each situation.

The grandparent scam

What would you do if a family member, like a grandchild, called desperately needing money for an emergency? Maybe they need to pay a hospital bill or are trapped in a foreign country. It sounds urgent and they need the funds as soon as possible.

Odds are, you would do everything to ensure their safety and needs are met. But before you send money, take a breath. Scammers have designed this heart-wrenching scenario to exploit your emotions and goodwill. Sometimes, the caller will even sound like your relative, but the money isn’t going to a loved one.

To protect yourself from this grandparent swindle, remember to:

  • Keep calm; take a moment to assess the situation. For example, do you remember hearing about your grandchild going to the hospital?
  • Verify the caller’s identity; ask personal questions only your family member would know.
  • Confirm the situation by directly contacting the person who is supposedly asking for money or asking another family member. Use the phone number or email you have in your contact list, not one that may be given to you.

“Tech support” scams

Technology is so critical to our everyday tasks, and we’ve become used to common tech issues, like the computer running slow. So, when a phone call comes unexpectedly or a pop-up window appears on the screen offering help, our first thought might not be “Scam!”

Before letting someone have remote access to your computer or hiring a company you’ve never heard of, stop. These scammers prey on your fear of technical issues. If you grant an unknown person access to your computer, they can steal personal or financial account information or passwords stored on the computer.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Legitimate tech companies won’t phone, email, or text message to tell you there’s a problem with your computer.
  • Pop-up security warnings that are real will not provide a phone number to call or link to click.
  • Hang up the phone and close any pop-ups at once without engaging.
  • Trusted companies (like Microsoft or Apple) can help with computer issues; many offer in-person service at stores. Never share information or access to callers or pop-ups.
  • Be careful of calls offering you a refund for tech support services you paid for; this is likely another scam.
  • If you have been the target of a tech problem scam, regardless of how you responded, report it to the FTC.

Phishing emails

An email marked “urgent” shows up in your in-box. It may have a bank logo and tell you that your new credit card has been approved and needs to be activated. Or it could appear from the IRS, informing you that you owe them money. The email provides a link to help you start whatever action you need to take.

Don’t be fooled! These are phishing emails, and they can look very real. Scammers pretend to be trusted entities like banks or government agencies, request action through a malicious link, and then steal your sensitive information. Everything about the email may look real, but it is not. Scammers ask for immediate action and may threaten arrest, asset seizure, or benefits termination.

Guard yourself and loved ones by remembering to:

  • Exercise caution with any emails requesting urgent action or claiming unusual account activity.
  • Scrutinize the sender’s email and email address for inconsistencies and/or misspellings.
  • Refrain from clicking on provided links.
  • Refuse to provide any personal or financial information.

Banks and government agencies do not phone, email, or send texts to demand payments or personal information.

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a cyber scam, know that you are not alone and need not be ashamed. Instead:

  • Stay calm. Take a deep breath and remember that help is available.
  • Report the incident. Contact the local police and relevant organizations, such as your bank. Report tax-related scams to the IRS and other online scams to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Seek support. Ask trusted family members, friends, or professionals for help in navigating the situation. Here at LifeCare Advocates, our life care managers are happy to coach our clients about online safety.

By arming yourself with knowledge and simple precautions, you can preserve your digital well-being and enjoy the benefits of the online world securely. Stay informed, stay empowered, and stay safe in the virtual world! You’re always welcome to contact us to learn more about how we can help.