Latest Scams And How To Beat Them
Older adults are frequently targeted by scammers who trick them into giving out their personal information or sending money. Telephone scams are the most common scams aimed at seniors, as fraudsters know that older adults are generally more willing to speak on the phone than younger adults.
Although seniors cannot stop scammers from targeting them, they can arm themselves with knowledge about these schemes. While there are various telephone scams, the following are the most common ones thieves use and tips on how to avoid falling victim to fraud:
1. The Grandparent Scam
The set-up: A senior receives a phone call from a frantic person claiming to be a grandchild or relative in a hospital, stranded in a foreign country, or in some other desperate situation, and needs money.
The caller asks for the senior’s financial information in order to make a payment or asks the senior to pay with gift cards, wire money, or send money in the mail to a specific address. A variation of this scam is called “The Fake Accident Ploy,” according to the National Council on Aging. In this variation, the scammer claims to be a friend of a relative who is in the hospital and needs money to cover medical fees.
The payoff: Scammers know that seniors care about the safety of their family members, especially their grandchildren. As a result, scammers can effectively gain access to a senior’s bank account or receive money from them in some form.
How to prevent theft:
• Do not answer calls from unknown numbers.
• Make the caller answer questions that only an actual relative could answer. For example, ask the caller for his or her name or ask a question about a mutual family member only that relative could answer.
• Do not be fooled by emotional pleas, especially if you do not recognize the caller’s name or voice.
• Call a family member to verify the situation.
• Never give financial information over the phone to a stranger, especially if the story sounds suspicious.
2. Prize Winner Scams
The set-up: A scammer calls a senior, claiming that the senior has won an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic location. The fraudster asks the senior for credit card information to redeem the prize. Another variation of this scam is seniors receiving notification of winning a lottery or sweepstakes.
The payoff: The fraudsters either steal money or financial information or both. To receive the so-called prize, these scams require seniors to pay a fee for taxes, or shipping and handling charges, or processing fees. In the case of winning a free trip, seniors might be asked to wire money or provide their credit card information to make a small down payment to cover transportation and lodging.
How to prevent theft: Never pay funds up front to receive a prize. If the caller asks for payment, this should be a red flag. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, real contests and prizes are free to enter, and promoters are required to tell what the prizes are, the value of the prize, the odds of winning, and how to redeem the prize. No matter what prizes are offered, never give out financial information over the phone, especially if you have suspicions about the caller.
3. The Charity Scam
The set-up: Scammers call posing as a representative from a disaster relief agency or a well-known charitable organization collecting donations for people in need. This fraud usually occurs immediately after a hurricane, tornado, flood, or other devastating natural disasters.
The payoff: The scammer steals money by asking the senior to make a donation by credit card or provides a fake address for donations.
How to prevent theft:
• Do not make donations over the telephone, especially to an organization that you have never heard of before.
• If a scammer uses the name of a familiar charity, send the donations directly to that charity.
• Before sending money to a charity, verify the charity’s identity to ensure the charity is legitimate.
If you suspect you may have been contacted by a scammer, contact your local law enforcement agency to report the call. Police may also be able to tell you if other people in your area have been targeted by a similar scam.
How to Block Scams and Keep Your Mobile Phone Secure
With the onslaught of spam calls on landlines, many phone carriers offer robocall-blocking software, usually for a monthly charge. Mobile phone carriers also offer apps for blocking unwanted calls. It’s more than likely that these unwanted calls are from scammers.
To access a call-blocking app on an iPhone, Apple directs users to:
• Go to the App Store and download an app that detects and blocks spam phone calls. You can download and install multiple apps with this feature from different app developers.
• Go to “Settings,” then to “Phone.”
• Tap “Call Blocking & Identification.”
• Under “Allow These Apps To Block Calls And Provide Caller ID,” turn the app on.
You can also reorder the apps based on priority. Just tap “Edit” and then drag the apps in the order you want them.
Smartphones that use the Android operating system usually have preinstalled software to detect and block spam. Caller ID and spam protection are on by default. However, the feature that filters suspected spam calls and sends them to voicemail must be turned on.
To enable the spam filter on an Android phone:
• Open the Phone app on your device.
• Tap “More,” then tap “Settings,” and then “Spam & Caller ID”
• Turn on “Spam & Caller ID.”
• Turn on “Filter Suspected Spam Calls.” The filtered calls will still be in your call history and you can check your voicemail.
Both iPhone and Android users can report spam numbers to the mobile carrier.
How to Clear Spam Text Messages
Scammers also send text messages with phone numbers or links to fake websites. Do not call the number or click on the link. The most basic way to stop spam text is to block the number.
To block a number on an iPhone:
• Tap the name or number at the top of a Messages conversation.
• Tap info, scroll down, and tap “Block this Caller.”
You can also filter messages from unknown senders. Texts from callers that are not in your contact list will be sent to the “Unknown Senders” tab in the Messages list. To do this:
• Go to Settings and then Messages.
• Turn on Filter Unknown Senders.
To block spam texts on an Android:
• Open your messaging app and find the text you want to block. Long-press (touch and hold) the message and tap the “Block” icon. In some apps, you may need to tap “Options” (three dots) and then “Block.”
• Tick “Report spam,” then tap “OK.”