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Preventing and Identifying Elder Scams

At Four Seasons, we care about your loved one’s safety. In this article, you’ll find tips on scam identification and prevention, as well as what to do if your loved one is scammed. Additional resources are also provided.

Scam Prevention & Identification

According to the National Council on Aging, financial scams targeting aging adults are on the rise nationwide. In 2021, there were a reported 92,371 older victims of fraud resulting in $1.7 billion in losses. These scams can be devastating and difficult to recover from. This section discusses some of the most common types of scams targeted at aging adults as well as ways to identify a scam.

Identifying a Scam

You can help teach your loved one how to know if they have received a scam call. Here are 6 key indicators that you are on the phone with a scammer.

  1. You did not initiate contact.

Many scammers will pretend to call from a reputable company (such as Apple, Microsoft, AARP, etc.) or from the government. These companies do not reach out to individual customers unless they have first been contacted by the customer. If your loved one has not initiated contact with the company alleging to be on the phone, it is likely a scam call. Hang up the phone immediately, and if you are able, block the number from your loved one’s phone.

  1. The caller explains an extreme or urgent situation.

A scammer’s goal is to disarm you so that you will be more likely to hand over personal information. They might start the call off with a shocking statement, such as saying you owe an excessive amount of money, you are going to be arrested if you don’t provide certain information, that you haven’t filed certain documents, etc. Educate your loved one that these extreme statements are not true and are aimed to pressure them to hand over money and information quickly.

  1. They pressure you to pay money or hand over information, quickly.

Once the caller has disarmed you with a shocking statement, they will move into trying to get your information and/or money. If the caller says you owe a company money, teach your loved one to ask for the itemized information of what they are paying for. Often, they will not receive a straight answer. A real representative of a company will be happy to explain outstanding charges and can also give you more details about the service or product they provide. If your loved one is unsure if the call is real or not, teach them to hang up to call someone they trust to discuss. They can also call the real company and ask to confirm if there are any payments that are outstanding, and if anyone in the company has attempted to reach you already.

  1. They urge you to pay them with a gift card.

This is a very popular scam. The scammer will ask you to purchase a certain amount of money in gift cards (Amazon, Visa, Walmart, etc.) in conjunction with an extreme situation statement. Once you have the cards purchased, they want you to give them the gift card information as a means of payment. Gift cards are difficult to trace, and once they have the claim code, they will redeem the gift cards immediately for personal profit. Educate your loved one on this type of scam. No company will ever ask for payment this way. So, if they receive this type of call, it is certainly a scam. Hang up the phone and if you are able, block the number from your loved one’s phone. The Henderson County Sherriff’s office reports this as an active and top scam in our area.

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Another popular scam is telling your loved one that they’ve won a prize. The Henderson County Sherriff’s Office reports that a popular choice of prize-awarding company is the Publisher’s Clearing House. With prize-winning calls, remember that if you did not enter a contest, then it is certainly a scam. Teach your loved one that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and to hang up immediately.

  1. They may threaten you.

Scam callers may threaten you with arrest, service interruption, etc. if you fail to provide the payment or information they are requesting. A great example of this type of call is a call claiming to be from the IRS saying that you haven’t paid or filed your taxes, and that you are in jeopardy of being arrested or having the police come to your home. Real companies cannot threaten you to receive payment. If your loved one is threatened or feels uncomfortable on a call, teach them to hang up immediately.

The most important thing your loved one should do if they receive a scam call is to report it to their local police or sheriff’s office.

Learn more tips and details!

Preventing Scam Calls

So, how can you help protect your loved one from scammers?

-Follow your local police department and sheriff’s office social media accounts. Many departments will post alerts when there is a rise in scams. Keeping yourself informed can help keep your loved one safe.

-Put your loved one’s phone number on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry.

-Report any received scam calls to the local police or sheriff’s office.

-Consider using a call-blocking mobile app or device to screen your calls and weed out spam and scams. If your loved one doesn’t have a smart phone, or has a land line, you can also ask their phone-service provider if it offers any blocking tools.

-Teach your loved one to hang up the call. Some aging adults grew up in a time when hanging up the phone may have been considered rude. It is not rude to hang up on a scammer. The longer your loved one is on the phone, the more time the scammer has to convince them to hand over money or information.

-Teach your loved one to slow down and ask questions. If they are met with a shocking statement, teach them to ask more probing questions. Legitimate companies will be open and transparent. Scammers will be vague and may even become angry when asked further questions.

-Do not return calls to unknown numbers. If they need you, they will call back or leave a message.

-Do not answer calls from unknown numbers

-Don’t give out any personal information such as social security numbers or bank information. If they ask you to provide the information needed to confirm, it’s a scam. Most reputable companies will ask you if the information they have on file is correct.

There are many ways to keep your loved one safe from these scams. Read more and find additional resources!

Additional Resources

Protect Your Parents from Scams

How to Identify and Avoid Phone Scams

How to Stop an Elderly Parent from Giving Money Away

Elder Scams and Senior Fraud Abuse

Office for Victims of Crime- National Elder Fraud Hotline

FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry