Unfortunately, it’s more common than you’d think.
An estimated 3.5 million seniors a year fall victim to scammers — and you may be wondering how to protect your elderly loved one. Learning common scams, and knowing when to contact the police, is one of the best ways to help.
We’ve listed crucial tips on what to do if your elderly parent is being scammed, including the best steps to take if your parents got scammed.
How To Protect Elderly Parents From Scams And Fraud
For such a critical topic, we asked expert Detective Sergeant Matt Leirstein to visit one of our Independence Village communities and give an in-depth presentation about the warning signs of scams targeted at older adults. D/Sgt. Leirstein is the detective supervisor at the Emmett County Sheriff’s Office. See his video below and keep reading for expert insight on how to identify and prevent scams.
1. Know The Key Signs Of An Email Scam
Online con artists are very clever, using underhanded methods to get information and money from unsuspecting people. But a great way to protect your elderly loved one from fraud is to arm yourself with knowledge.
When it comes to email, there are some telltale signs that can help you identify these scam tactics. Common signs of an email scam include emails marked “urgent,” misspelled text, the use of official sounding tiles and more. Here’s how you can identify an email scam:
The email is “urgent” or has a deadline
Any email title that says “Urgent response requested” or urgent deadline is a key indicator of a scam. Scammers want money quickly and don’t want you to have the time to review their email because you might realize it’s a scam.
It comes from a suspicious sender
When you see an email account, you’ll want to check the email sender name. A lot of times you’ll see something like a number or symbol added to a realistic email domain. For example, instead of “firstname.lastname@example.org” you’ll see the email was sent from“email@example.com.” A legitimate Gmail email address would never have an added number in it.
The email is full of spelling mistakes
Scammers make their money by casting a wide net and don’t review their email for spelling errors. You’ll commonly see that the first letter of the sender’s first name isn’t capitalized. For example, you may see an email signed “michael Horn.” If the company name is misspelled or the person’s name isn’t capitalized, it’s a giveaway that the email is a scam.
The sender has a fancy title
If you’re subject to a scam, you may receive an email from a royal-sounding person with the name of “Sir Arthur Von-Monsoon,” or “Barrister Frank N. Stein.” This scam usually comes with a request to help recover large sums of money from an overseas bank. Unfortunately, there’s always a catch. They might ask for transfer fees or payment. This type of email from someone with an official sounding name is a sign that the email is a scam.
2. Don’t Trust Anyone That Asks For Money Over The Phone
Gently remind your loved one what they taught you growing up: don’t trust strangers — especially those seeking personal information and money. As D/Sgt. Leirstein explains, no government agency will ever call you and ask for money.
3. Don’t Trust Automated Messages
Any call with a computer generated voice should also be a red flag. One common scam is a phone call from a proposed jail, stating that a loved one has been incarcerated. The automated message then asks for money to bail them out. As D/Sgt. Leirstein explains, bond payments must happen in-person with a valid ID. To pay a parking ticket, bail payment or any type of legal payment requires a credit card or check. Anyone asking for your money over the phone is likely a con artist.
4. Don’t Trust Anyone Asking For Gift Cards
Gift card scams are the most common way scammers seek payment from their targets. Scammers will contact your loved one in the guise of someone else — often a representative of a government agency such as the IRS or a well-known company like Target or Amazon — and claim a debt is owed.
Don’t believe it! Genuine businesses and government bodies never ask for payment via gift card. Any request is a sure sign of fraud.
Google Play and Itunes Gift Cards
If your loved one receives a call asking for a Google Play card or direct access to their bank account, be aware that it’s probably a scam. Google Play and Itunes cards can be used to buy virtually any media. So these cards quickly became a favorite tool for scammers looking for untraceable payment. Now with more criminals aware of the opportunity, they’re the go-to choice for scammers.
5. Ignore And Shred Unsolicited Mail
The same rules apply to the mail you receive through the USPS, UPS, FedEx or any other carrier. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Again, proofread the piece of mail for any spelling errors. Spelling errors are a great indicator that you’re being scammed. Also, it’s recommended that you shred this mail. So that you stop any potential future scams, mail that includes your personal information should be shredded!
6. Use A Secure Password
D/Sgt. Leirstein highly recommends changing your password every month. Changing passwords regularly and using “strong” passwords — passwords with special characters like @, #, $ and & — are two great ways to protect your loved one.
Avoid using passwords like 1-2-3-4. These passwords can be easily guessed and make your loved one more susceptible to being hacked.
What To Do If Your Elderly Parent is Being Scammed
It’s best to approach the situation with empathy. Let your parent know that their story can help the authorities track down the scammers. If your parent is being scammed, D/Sgt. Leirstein recommends that the best course of action is generally ignoring the scam, hanging up or contacting authorities.
Ignore It Or Hang Up
If you catch the scam early, sometimes it’s ok to simply hang up the phone or delete the email. If you can tell an email is a scam, simply delete it and set your loved one’s email to go to a spam folder for all unknown senders. For recurring scams, try using filters to get rid of spam emails or filter unknown callers from getting through to your loved one.
Contact Your Bank Or Authorities
If your parent got scammed, D/Sgt. Leirstein recommends reporting the scam immediately by calling 911 and contacting their financial institution. If your loved one falls victim to a phone scam, keep the phone number. That would be the starting point detectives need to begin an investigation.
You can also report suspicious online activity to the FBI at Cy.Watch@fbi.gov within 36 hours of the scam. Depending on your situation, your loved one may be able to be reimbursed.
Our Community’s Commitment To Security
At our communities, the safety of our residents is our top priority. We offer safety seminars like this one with D/Sgt. Leirstein for one reason: we care.