Protect Yourself from Financial Scams
Financial scams bilk seniors out of an estimated $3 billion every year, according to the National Council on Aging.
Seniors tend to be more trusting, have higher savings, are often isolated and are less tech savvy than younger people, all of which make them an easier target for financial scammers.
Scammers use tactics, such as phony sales pitches, promises and threats, to get you to part with your money.
Learning to identify some of the most popular scams is an important first step in protecting yourself from being a victim of a financial scam.
- Government/Business Imposters: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration, and Medicare/Medicaid will never telephone or email you to say that you owe unpaid taxes or that your benefits are going to be cut unless you provide personal information like your Social Security or Medicare number. Likewise, banks, credit card companies and legitimate businesses will never call or email asking for your Social Security number, bank account number, date of birth or credit card information. Communication from all of these entities always comes in written form via the US mail. Hang up and call your local police department and report the call or email.
- Grandparent Scam: The scammer will call pretending to be a grandchild who needs some help to fix a financial problem like overdue rent, car troubles or a jail bond. The scammer will ask you to purchase a gift card or make a money transfer, but don’t do it as the money will certainly not go to help your loved one.
- Computer/Tech Support: Use caution if you receive a pop up message on your computer notifying you that your device is compromised and needs to be fixed. Most often, the scammer is looking for remote access to your computer or to pay a fee to have it repaired.
- Sweepstakes & Lottery: If you’ve won an authentic sweepstakes or lottery you won’t be asked for money for fees and taxes to unlock the prize.
- Robocalls: One of the most popular scams is run by robocallers who claim that the warranty on your vehicle is expiring and you need to make a payment to continue it. Another popular robocaller scam is one in which the caller asks, “Can you hear me?” If you answer “yes” the caller is able to obtain your voice signature, which can then authorize unwanted charges for monthly services or subscriptions.
Other ways to protect yourself from financial scams include:
- Don’t Answer Unrecognized Phone Numbers: It’s especially important that you never answer a call from a number you don’t recognize during the night when you aren’t fully awake and might be more easily talked into offering the information requested.
- Add Your Phone Number to the Do Not Call Registry: While not entirely fool-proof, adding your number to the FREE Do Not Call Registry means that most legitimate telemarketers will not make an unsolicited call to your number. Political calls, however, are exempt. Go to this website to sign up: www.DoNotCall.gov.
- Get It In Writing: Always tell anyone who is soliciting you over the phone: “I never buy from someone or contribute to a charity over the phone. Send me the information in writing.” Never give your credit card information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and know exactly whom you are speaking with.
If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a scammer or an abusive telemarketer, notify your local police department, then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state’s Consumer Protection Bureau. In New Hampshire, you can reach the Bureau at www.doj.nh.gov/consumer or 1-888-468-4454.
Financial scams change frequently as new schemes are devised to cheat you out of your money. To protect yourself and your private information, your best course of action is to stay informed. As the old adage says, “Knowledge is power,” and being aware and informed makes you less vulnerable to scammers.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of The Morrison Communities, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility, Sartwell Place Assisted Living, Morrison Rehabilitation, and Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903.