Learning that a loved one has fallen victim to a scam can be very upsetting, to say the least. A scam is when a person or organization dishonestly attempts to obtain money, personal information, or something else of value from you. Scam attempts may be made in a number of ways, from email and text to a telephone call or in-person. Anyone can become a victim of a scam. There are many different scams to avoid – from employment, tax collection and charity scams to healthcare, home improvement and other scams.
How do you protect yourself and your loved ones? Awareness is key. To avoid phone scams, do not answer unknown numbers. Hang up if you answer a call and it’s a recorded message, or Robocall. Never give out or confirm credit card, banking or any personal information (such as your name, address, date of birth, insurance number, social security number, etc.) to someone calling you on the phone.
Be aware of phishing scams, which are unsolicited and unexpected communications (via email or text message) that ask for personal information. Be careful not to click on links or open attachments unless you have verified the sender.
If you are shopping online, make sure you are shopping on a legitimate website, as there are fake sites that mimic famous retailers. Fake sites often have spelling/grammatical errors. Also, the website should have a secure payment process.
Be mindful that scammers may use social media, dating websites and other sites to quickly befriend you and gain your trust. The following is an abbreviated list of scams to be aware of:
Employment scam – You’ve received a job offer or training opportunity, but it requires payment. Be wary.
Emergency scam – This is when a scammer impersonates your family member or friend in an attempt to obtain money from you for “help” in a bogus emergency. It’s also known as the “grandparent scam”. Do not wire or mail money or gift cards without first verifying their story with other family members and friends.
Charity scam – Scammers play to the emotions of those they are trying to scam and may appeal to you to help victims of a recent disaster, critically ill individuals, animals in need and others.
If you do wish to support an individual, cause or charity, find out as much information as possible to ensure authenticity prior to making a donation. For additional guidance and to check for Better Business Bureau (BBB) charity accreditation, visit www.give.org.
To review a full list of scams and learn how to better protect yourself and your loved ones, visit www.bbb.org/scamtips.
Keeping your finances in good order and paying attention to your credit card and bank statements will help you to quickly identify any discrepancies or unauthorized activity.
Sometimes older adults need assistance organizing their finances. They may have difficulty with tasks such as bill paying, budgeting, and sorting through their mail. Not being able to manage their money makes them particularly vulnerable to financial loss through a scam as they may not spot fraudulent transactions.
Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) provides confidential assistance to older adults (over 60) through well-trained volunteers who can help them sort through their mail, ensure that bills are paid on time, bank statements are reconciled, and financial paperwork is organized. The Money Management Program (MMP) at OCES can help provide older adults with peace of mind when managing their money. To learn more about the program, visit www.ocesma.org.
If you believe you or a loved one are the victim of a scam, contact one of the following agencies: your local police department; the Attorney General’s Office; the Better Business Bureau Federal Trade Commission; or the U.S. Postal Inspection Services.