10 Tips to Protect Seniors from Scams and Fraud
Updated: May 31
By Ana Jones - Founder, Phlex65
Protecting seniors from scams and fraud can be a difficult task. With an increase in online activity and the prevalence of sophisticated scams, seniors are especially vulnerable. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to stay safe and alert when it comes to scams and fraud. Here are ten tips to help protect seniors from becoming victims of these crimes.
From monitoring bank accounts and credit reports to staying informed about current scams, these tips can help seniors protect themselves. With these strategies in place, seniors can be better equipped to recognize and avoid scams and fraudsters.
Monitor bank accounts and credit reports
Monitoring bank accounts and credit reports is an important step in protecting seniors’ financial security. Seniors are less likely to be checking their credit reports, for example, as only 25% of seniors checked their credit reports in 2017.
While this may be due to a lack of knowledge, it can also be due to feeling overwhelmed by the process. Similarly, seniors may be hesitant to check their bank accounts out of fear of finding unrecognizable activity. In reality, however, checking for unfamiliar activity is the best way to protect seniors from financial harm.
If something doesn’t seem right, it’s best to take action immediately. Seniors should check their bank accounts and credit reports on a regular basis to stay informed about their financial situation.
Checking once a year is recommended for credit reports, while checking bank accounts more frequently, at least 2-3 times a month, is advised. Credit reports should be monitored regularly to keep an eye out for signs of identity theft. Ask your family or friend to assist you with checking credit reports online.
Check for unusual activity
Seniors should check their bank accounts regularly to stay informed about any unusual activity. They can also check their credit reports to make sure no new accounts have been opened. If something doesn’t seem right, seniors should report it. The unusual activity could be due to identity theft. It’s important to take action as soon as possible if identity theft is suspected.
This can be especially important for seniors who have social security numbers that are linked to benefits. Identity theft can cause delays in benefits, as well as added stress in the form of fixing the situation. If a social security number is used fraudulently, seniors will have to go back and correct their tax returns.
This can cause complications and frustration as seniors deal with bureaucracy and red tape. Checking for and reporting unusual activity regularly can help seniors stay informed about their financial situation and act quickly if something doesn’t seem right.
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Don’t trust unsolicited calls, emails, or text messages
While seniors may want to believe an unsolicited phone call or email from a financial institution is legitimate, it’s important not to trust these communications. As previously mentioned, scammers are often very convincing. Seniors may feel pressured to act quickly if the communication is urgent. It’s best to wait a day before acting on any financial communication, even if it appears to be from a legitimate source.
Ask for advice from neighbors, family, and peers to see if the call is legitimate or if they can do a little research. Similarly, seniors should not trust text messages or voicemails from financial institutions. It is important to wait before acting on communications from a financial institution.
If something doesn’t seem right, seniors can call the financial institution directly. Financial institutions typically have a phone number listed on their website, and they usually have a phone number that rings to an automated system.
Avoid giving out personal information
Scammers often ask for personal information, but seniors should avoid giving out this information whenever possible. Giving out personal information like social security numbers, credit card information, and so on can be a sign of financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is a form of abuse that often targets seniors.
If a scammer is requesting personal information, this may be a sign of exploitation. Seniors should be careful not to give out personal information unless necessary. If a financial institution or company is requesting personal information, seniors should call and ask about the legitimacy of the request.
If a person is working for a financial institution, they will likely be able to answer specific questions about their job and why they need personal information. In addition to financial institutions, other individuals and organizations may ask for personal information. Avoid giving out this information as much as possible to protect seniors from scams. Ask anyone in your circle if they were contacted in a similar fashion via phone, text, or email, and remember not to give out personal information.
Stay informed about current scams
Stay informed about current scams and how they work to better protect seniors from falling for them. Scammers are always evolving, and new scams are constantly popping up. Seniors can stay informed about current scams by reading the news and online articles. They can also follow websites like the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Tracker to get updates on new scams.
Regularly reading and learning about current scams will help seniors be better prepared to recognize and avoid them. By staying informed, seniors can be better equipped to identify scams. They can also recommend this information to others who may be more susceptible to scams. When a new scam pops up, seniors can share this information with their peers to help protect a wider population.
Recognize and avoid phishing scams
Phishing scams are another type of internet scam seniors should be aware of and ready to avoid. These scams attempt to trick people into revealing sensitive information. Phishing emails are often very convincing, which makes it all the more important for seniors to recognize them. One way to quickly identify a phishing scam is the use of an unexpected or incorrect name.
If an email is addressed to “Dear Customer,” for example, it may be a phishing email. Another way to identify a phishing scam is the presence of poor spelling or grammar. Phishing emails are typically poorly written and may have a few spelling or grammar errors. To avoid falling for a phishing scam, seniors should delete suspicious emails without clicking on them. They should also report the email to the company it appears to be from.
Be aware of online fraud
Online fraud can be another form of scam to be on the lookout for. Seniors can be especially vulnerable to online scams. The most common type of online fraud is identity theft. This occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it for their own benefit. Seniors should be careful when providing information to websites.
They should avoid giving out personal information unless absolutely necessary. If a website asks for personal information, seniors should also research the website to make sure it’s legitimate before providing the information. Seniors should also regularly monitor their credit reports and bank accounts for signs of identity theft.
If something doesn’t seem right, they should report it immediately. There are many ways seniors can protect themselves from online fraud. They can also help protect others by educating them about current scams.
Don’t wire money or send prepaid debit cards
Seniors should avoid wiring money or sending prepaid debit cards unless absolutely necessary. These methods of payment are typically irreversible, which can leave seniors vulnerable to scammers.
If a scammer asks seniors to wire money or send a prepaid debit card, they should recognize the request as an illegitimate attempt to steal their money. Seniors should be wary of any request that asks them to send money.
They may be asked to send money to cover taxes or fees, or they may be asked to pay for a product they purchased online. If a request asks seniors to wire money or send a prepaid debit card, they should know that it is likely an attempt to scam them.
Don’t fall for fake charities
Seniors should avoid giving to charity scammers disguised as legitimate organizations. These scammers often collect money from unsuspecting donors and rarely provide any kind of meaningful charity work. Seniors can avoid falling for scammers by researching the charities they are considering donating to.
Seniors can also check with a charity watchdog before donating. There are multiple websites that keep track of different charities, and many of these websites also offer information on specific charities. Seniors can use these websites to research charities before donating. It’s important to be careful when researching charities to avoid falling for fake charities.
Verify information before responding
Finally, seniors should make sure to verify any information they are asked to respond to before doing so, and ask family, friends, or peers for their take on the request from scammers. This is important for all types of scams, but it’s especially important for email scams and phone calls from scammers.
Seniors should take a close look at any emails they receive and make sure the information is accurate and legitimate before responding. They should do the same for any phone calls they receive. If something doesn’t seem right, seniors should try to verify the information before responding.
If seniors aren’t sure how to verify the information, they can search online for tips and advice. A quick search can help seniors verify the information before responding and protecting themselves from scams and fraud.
In Conclusion, Senior citizens are often targets for fraud. They may be less likely to figure out on their own if the request via email, phone, or text is legitimate. Each request for money or donation needs to be investigated, and it is important that personal information is not shared unless vetted. Friends, family, peers, and other professionals may be good sounding boards for any suspicious request that the senior receives.
Be aware and be vigilant! Scammers have become more sophisticated with their tactics, and it is important not to be rash in sharing personal information or sending funds.
If you feel that you are a victim of a scam or fraudulent transaction, reach out to the local Adult Protective Services (APS) in your county or region to report the incident and ask for help to resolve the issue. A social worker assigned to your case may be able to help you work through the mess and the upheaval a scammer may have instigated.