As reported by the FBI, almost $1 billion was stolen from seniors 65 years and older through fraudulent activity in 2020. Of the over 105,000 people victimized, average personal losses were upwards of $9,000, though almost 2,000 seniors lost over $100,000. These numbers are staggering and even disheartening. With statistics like that, with such vicious scams being affected all over the country, how can we provide senior scam protection? How can we defend ourselves and our parents, grandparents, and friends against such theft?
Do not despair. Though scams to steal from seniors are common, they are also pretty predictable, which means the tools for protecting seniors online are consistent. Putting proper safety measures in place can do a lot in the realm of senior scam protection. We have seven suggestions to safeguard yourself and those you love.
Senior Scam Protection Measures
Keep Sensitive Information Safe
This is the most obvious and important suggestion we can offer, and it encompasses all the others we will mention. Do not give private information—bank account numbers, birthdays, social security numbers, passwords, etc.—to anyone you do not infallibly trust with your money. This is true online, over the phone, or in a mail-in envelope. Official businesses or organizations will not call you to ask for sensitive information. If you have any doubt about the validity of the entity contacting you, hang up and call back using their official number. Do not use caller ID; look up the official number from their website.
For scammers, email is the perfect territory to wreak havoc. They can claim to be in an official capacity or to offer deals on tempting merchandise. In detecting a fraudulent email, look for misspelled words or irregular grammar. Though not always present, these can indicate suspicious activity.
You should also study the email address of the sender. Official emails will never come from an @gmail account. Sometimes fraudulent email addresses look official but don’t hold up under scrutiny. For example, an email from firstname.lastname@example.org may seem official, but the “m” in Microsoft is actually a “r” and an “n.” Report any emails like these as spam.
Beware of Downloads and Links
A spammer’s goal in sending emails is to steal information. Never click on links or attachments in emails from people you do not know. This includes an “unsubscribe” link within the email itself. If you need to follow an unknown link, type it in manually in another browser window.
Legitimate anti-virus, malware, and security software and pop-up blockers offer much in the way of senior scam protection if they are kept up-to-date.
Pull the Plug on Pop-Ups
It is very important to protect against internet pop-ups by shutting down websites and even the computer or phone if a suspicious pop-up presents itself. Pop-ups can spread malicious software. If the screen locks up, disconnect from everything.
Cut Back on Junk Mail
Though a bit antiquated, scammers still use physical junk mail to ensnare potential victims, elderly or otherwise. The Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service should allow you to opt out of solicitous mail for five year brackets. See what robocall-blocking protection is offered for your phone carrier.
Set up Bank Safeguards
Even if you don’t have concerns for your or another senior’s ability to make financial decisions, it may be wise to open a small local bank account for regular use. Establishing spending limits can provide further senior scam protection. The rest of the savings can then be placed in a separate, more secure account. You know what they say about eggs and baskets.
If you or someone you love falls victim to a scam, the correct procedure is to submit a tip to the FBI. While this may seem dramatic, it is proportionate to the seriousness of scamming. Contacting the proper authorities can help seniors find reparation and work toward senior scam protection for others. The FBI will ask for all the information you can provide:
- Dates of contact
- Methods of communication and payment
- Original documents
- Descriptions of the interactions with the scammer and the scammer’s instructions
- Any names, phone numbers, email or mailing addresses, and websites the scammer provided or utilized
- Where and how funds were sent
- Bank or information that was compromised
Being scammed is a jarring experience. While not easy, we know that ensuring senior scam protection for those you love is your goal. In your preparations to shield yourself and your loved ones from scams, don’t be afraid to reach out to those with the expertise to help.