We live in a cruel world. Don't get me wrong -- it's a truly wonderful world. But there are those out there who are just rotten to the core. They're the ones who are preying on the senior population, counting on them to be vulnerable victims to their scams. It's our job to make sure our elderly parents and grandparents are aware of the common scams out there.
As a large portion of the senior population is engaging on social media (how else will they see pictures of their adorable great-grandchildren) or at least spending time emailing family and friends, they are naturally susceptible to Internet schemes. Add these to the frequent phone scams, and our loved ones are practically sitting ducks.
In the March 2017 issue of AARP Bulletin, Sid Kirchheimer wrote an article called SCAM-SPEAK, a guide to the latest scams targeting seniors. These include:
Catfish: Fake online profiles created to intentionally deceive people
Ghosting: Stealing the identity of someone who has died in order to open credit accounts, obtain loans, or sign up for utility or medical services
Phishing: This involves trickery, usually by email, when a scammer poses as someone you trust in order to get you (or your elderly parent/grandparent) to provide sensitive personal data or credit card account information.
Scareware: When an on-screen warning flashes and warns you that you have to buy antivirus protection or download a program to fix your computer, beware!
Smishing: Like phishing, smishing scammers are trying to get info from you via text message, telling you to call a toll-free number.
Spear-phishing: Phishing via email, usually from someone you know (but not really).
Vishing: Another form of phishing -- and here we thought fishing was simply a relaxing hobby grandpap enjoyed! Vishing (voice phishing) uses recorded phone messages intended to trick you into revealing sensitive information for identity theft.
These are just some of the many ways people are trying to rip-off innocent people. Unfortunately, the elderly are often the most likely ones to fall for these scams.
What can you do?
Speak to the elderly loved ones in your family. Be firm with them and instruct them NEVER to give out any information on the phone. Read this article to them. Like Sid Kirchheimer said in his article, "Knowledge is power." Let them know that you can help them with any computer issues they have and that they should never download a program or respond to a request/demand to give anyone access to their computer. Tell them to say things like, "I can have my son return your call when he gets home." This serves two purposes -- one, they avoid giving out any info, and two, they inform the caller that they don't live alone (even if it is a lie -- sometimes white lies are necessary).
Nothing infuriates me more than seeing the vulnerable members of our society mistreated or taken advantage of. Let's all do our best to protect them. And remind them, when someone calls and says he's their grandson and he needs money because he's in trouble, most likely it's not. Tell them to ask for his number and that they'll call him back. When they hear the line go dead, they can feel good about themselves, knowing they didn't fall for yet another scam.
Like I said, we live in a cruel world. It's up to you and me to make it better.