As a physical therapist, I have focused my professional attention on preventing older adults from falling through education, resources and exercises. As a son, grandson and son-in-law, I have added to my focus, preventing senior scams. I am personally involved in helping seniors, especially those who are new to the internet and trusting in the community, to know what a scam looks like.
With our nation’s growing older population, fraudulent schemes are becoming more popular and in demand. Con artists are everywhere and our seniors are a vulnerable prey to their deceptions. Sadly, many seniors are afraid to report a fraud or scam because they are usually too ashamed. If their family believes they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of themselves, then maybe an alternative dependent lifestyle is necessary.
Today’s high tech community is leaving everyone vulnerable to the latest con artist technique and strategy to take our money. Personally, I can’t even keep up with all the newest technological gadgets and their related deceptive schemes—so how can we expect our seniors, who have little context or digital life experience, to know what to do?
It is important to be prepared and prevent the next scam, because unfortunately the con artist is just waiting to lure-in our unsuspecting seniors. Today’s scammers are proficient in enticing our seniors with telemarketing, fake prescriptions and internet fraud schemes. Using a quick tongue, being knowledgeable of the subject and having an action plan is the mantra of the con.
For example, a phone call claiming to be a granddaughter is a sure way to push some emotional buttons for a quick money fix. Telling the grandparent that she is in trouble and would you please wire some money to pay for an accident or get out of jail has been repetitively used. All the personal information from the real granddaughter was found posted on her Facebook page. The granddaughter’s Facebook privacy settings weren’t high enough and allowed posted personal account information and facts about her family, friends and addresses to be viewed by anyone.
One solution, for parents is to download the new app FamilyControls, which was designed to configure privacy settings for kids. These features can prevent children from posting status updates and photos, prevent sharing websites and from sending or accepting friend requests. FamilyControls is the first-ever shared experience for Parents and their children to safely determine how much of the Facebook universe their kids will see. And this same app can be used to keep our seniors safe as well. By turning off the ability to click links, and filter out potentials scams, the same app that keeps kids safe online might just be another step in keeping seniors safe online too.
With healthcare costs rising, many seniors may turn to the internet to buy discount prescription drugs. Be wary of these scams. An older adult may unexpectedly pay for ineffective pills or even worse unsafe medication that may be harmful. First, discuss with your senior family member the pro’s and con’s of any online prescription medicine purchase. Make sure the site is secure, safe and a legitimate pharmaceutical company. Scam artists have been known to duplicate a site, siphon off the orders and then use the credit card info to make illegal purchases. Always use a non-critical real credit card (not a debit card) when making online purchases. That way, the risk is limited and insured.
Another risky situation, many seniors are not internet savvy and may find themselves downloading unnecessary software. When searching the web, they may come across a pop-up window stating—- you need a new virus software, download here. By downloading this software, a virus may have been released having the capacity to steal personal information. Or, there may be an e-mail, telling you that you need to update your personal information for a bank or the IRS. Never, release personal information without checking out the source first or asking a family member.
How do we help seniors and protect them from scammers:
- Never give money to solicitors over the phone or in the mail.
- Never give out personal information, to someone who contacts you.
- Shred all documents with credit card numbers, social security numbers or personal information.
- Never give out personal information from an email to a bank or organization without checking it out first.
- Family members should offer to help seniors — open the mail and answer emails, when money or personal information is required.
I believe everyone has a personal responsibility to take care of themselves and also to help others. This is especially true when it comes to our older adults. Seniors need direction and advice with their health, finances and personal issues that must come from a trusted family member or friend. Play the devils advocate and say, “Today, this is happening in our world with con artists and scammers, so beware”. Seniors deserve and need our assistance on the internet, to handle daily finances and limit personal information exposure to prevent a fraudulent scam. TIME, INFORMATION and COMMITMENT is the best deterrent to a shameful and embarrassing scam —-to anyone.