The story sounds familiar. You get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Amazon or Microsoft, stating that there is an issue with your account that they need to resolve. It might sound legit, or it may raise a few flags. Some victims of these calls didn’t realize what was happening until they provided their banking information and noticed immediate problems with their financial accounts.
In 2021, there were over 90,000 Americans over the age of 60 impacted by fraud, collectively losing $1,685,017,829. Again, that’s one billion dollars or roughly eighteen thousand dollars lost per person. Of these scams, the most frequently occurring type was unsolicited Tech Support calls from call centers pretending to be Microsoft, Apple, Verizon, etc.
Aging Americans are the most frequently targeted victims of phone scams, potentially due to their vulnerability (loneliness, isolation due to the pandemic, or other physical distance from family) or also their growing reliance on unfamiliar technologies.
Today we’re going to talk about some common scams, ways to protect yourself and your loved ones, and learn how to avoid scams. As a reminder, Avanlee Care will never reach out to you or your family for payment information or your banking information.
The FBI releases an annual fraud report focusing on scams and financial crimes against seniors. Among the top scams for seniors were tech support, payment issues, or confidence fraud. Additionally, the National Council on Aging also details some of the nuances between these common scams. Some of the top scams they identify are Government Imposter Scams, Grandparent Scams, and Tech Support Scams. A key takeaway with each of these scams is that the person on the other end of the phone will use either a feigned position of power or a personal relationship to manipulate the victim into acquiescing. If you get a phone call from a random number claiming to be from an organization you’re part of, subscribe to, or from someone you know – take a second, and review the FTC’s guidelines for avoiding scams.
Getting a phone call from someone who is aggravated, demanding, or otherwise acting as though you’ve done something wrong is disconcerting and stressful.
The FTC notes some common ways scammers may act in order to persuade you, including:
- Impersonating an organization you’re familiar with
- Most (if not all) major organizations will not call you out of the blue for information. Even if the caller ID suggests the number is from a real company, unless you’ve reached out to them first or are actively working on an ongoing issue with them, a company will not call you out of the blue.
- Making you aware of a problem or a prize you qualify for
- If someone calls you and lets you know that your computer is infected with a virus, that your loved one is in trouble, and money must be wired immediately to protect their safety (and might even ask you not to tell anyone else), hang up, delete the text or email, and reach out to the relative directly. Additionally, if someone calls you to tell you that you’ve won a huge and unexpected prize (like the lottery or surprise sweepstakes), but first you need to provide some information for them to pay you – run. Ok, don’t literally run, but hang up that call and don’t give them any information.
- Pressure to act immediately
- If someone on the phone pressures you to not hang up, “please don’t go”, or otherwise threatens you that “bad things will happen if you don’t do” what they’re demanding, hang up. They will protest that their job is at stake, that you’re going to regret this, or other disasters will befall you, but your hard drive is not about to be corrupted, your sister-in-law is not in need of an urgent wire transfer, and hanging up is the best and safest thing you can do for yourself.
- Demand payment in a specific format (wire transfer, banking info, gift cards, etc)
- If you haven’t hung up yet, any time payment is demanded is time to get off of the phone. Especially if it involves wire transfers, weird gift card purchases, or sharing banking info.
In addition to being aware of what common scams are and how you can avoid them, you can also set up safeguards to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the impacts of these scams.
Consumer Reports offers a great list of ways to set up safeguards to protect you and your loved ones from scams. Additionally, staying in touch with your aging loved ones can help prevent them from becoming isolated and falling prey to a Romance Scam or other scams where the perpetrator takes advantage of a person’s loneliness. Also, if you’re concerned about an aging loved one’s financial decisions, you can set up monitoring (without having access to the accounts and with their consent) on their bank accounts to keep an eye on things.
Communication with your family about how to avoid fraud may be a “dull” conversation to have, but keeping everyone educated and abreast of what to do and how to avoid scams will save money and time and help keep accounts from being compromised.
Finally, if you suspect that you or a loved one has been the victim of fraud, you can call the National Elder Fraud hotline at 833-372-8311 and report it to the FTC by visiting the agency’s website or calling 877-382-4357.
As a reminder, Avanlee Care will never reach out to you or your family for payment information or your banking information.