Did you know that scams can spike during the holidays?
During the holiday season, when people are feeling generous and looking for ways to help others, scammers can take advantage of this kind of generosity. As many as three-quarters of Americans have been targeted by a scam that’s connected to the holidays at some point.
These scams can include online fraud, fake charities, and even identity theft. It’s important to stay vigilant and protect yourself from these kinds of predatory activities.
How to Spot Holiday Scams
Unknown numbers, gift cards that have been tampered with, and shady charities are some of the biggest red flags associated with holiday scams. However, knowing what to look out for can be difficult, especially with the prevalence of online scams.
AARP has put together a helpful online quiz that will test your knowledge of holiday scams. The quiz covers topics like phishing, check fraud, and other factors that can help you identify potential disasters before they have a chance to affect you.
For example, can you always trust ads for items you see on social media? Will retailers like Amazon ever ask for your login info over the phone? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you stay safe from scams during the holidays.
The Seniors Center Blog Can Help You Stay Safe for the Holidays
We hope you enjoy this holiday season—and stay vigilant against scams! At The Seniors Center, you’ll find helpful advice on how to stay safe. From avoiding impostor fraud to recognizing questionable charities, our blog has all the info you need to stay safe during the holidays.
For seniors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has been a lifeline. Many older Americans enjoy connecting with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. However, there can be hidden dangers lurking on social media. For some seniors, these dangers come in the form of vicious romance scams.
What Are Romance Scams?
Romance scams, also known as dating scams, totaled more than $300 million last year, according to USA Today. Much of these losses were for retirees who have been targeted on social media. The way these scams operate is that a scammer sends their target a friend request and attempts to strike up a friendship or romantic relationship. Then, they’ll move the conversation off of social media and begin texting or calling. Eventually, they will ask for money, possibly for an emergency. They’re likely to ask for a wire transfer or gift cards.
It can be difficult to sort out scammers from individuals who are truly looking for friendship. Senior citizens can stay safe by keeping conversations on social media and not giving out personal information. Research friend requests before accepting them by looking at their profiles. And if you feel suspicious, talk through your concerns with friends and family.
The FBI has recently released statistics detailing the cyber crimes that have taken place so far in 2021. These crimes range from phishing scams to ransomware attacks, and they have affected individuals, businesses, and government entities alike. The good news is that there are steps that everyone can take to protect themselves from these types of attacks.
Here are some of the most common cyber crimes that have been reported so far this year:
Ransomware – This type of attack involves criminals using malicious software to lock up your computer files and demand a ransom in order to get them back. Ransomware attacks can be devastating for businesses, as they can result in the loss of important data and files.
Supply chain attacks – These attacks target the supply chains of businesses in order to gain access to their networks. Once inside, the attackers can then install ransomware or steal sensitive data.
Critical infrastructure attacks – These attacks target the systems that control our critical infrastructure, such as power grids and water treatment plants. These attacks can have a significant impact on public safety.
For individuals, the best defense against these types of attacks is to educate yourself about the risks and be aware of the signs of an attack. If you receive a suspicious email, don’t click on any links or attachments. Change passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. And, if you are a victim of an attack, don’t pay the ransom.
Staying aware of the latest scams is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for seniors. Scam artists often target older adults because they may be more trusting or less likely to report a crime.
However, the American Bankers Association has put together a series of short videos that can help seniors learn about the most common types of scams. Called the “Safe Banking for Seniors Scams Awareness Series,” these seven videos detail some of the most common types of fraud, including family imposter schemes, sweetheart scams, and lottery scams.
You can view the first one below:
Each video is under two minutes long and features tips on how to avoid being scammed, as well as what to do if you think you’ve already been victimized. This knowledge can be invaluable in helping seniors protect themselves and their finances.
You can watch the entire series on the American Bankers Association’s website or on YouTube.
There are many different types of scams targeting seniors, from fraudulent investment schemes to fake lottery scams. And with seniors being one of the most vulnerable demographic groups when it comes to fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together a new advisory group to help fight back against these scams.
How the FTC Advisory Group Will Fight Back
According to the FTC, this group is part of the Stop Senior Scams Act. It will bring together “federal agency partners, consumer advocates, and industry representatives” to identify and find ways to stop scams that target seniors.
A few of the ways that the group plans to do this are by:
Improving education efforts
Finding innovative ways to prevent scams
Improving industry training
Developing research to better understand how seniors are targeted by scammers
This initiative comes on the heels of a new program in Pennsylvania bringing together government agencies and community resources to help seniors who have been victimized by scams. This new wave of anti-scam efforts is a welcome relief for seniors.
It’s clear there is a widespread problem of elder abuse in the United States. Seniors from all over have experienced some type of abuse, often in the form of financial exploitation. As different states look to create their own solutions to this problem, one network of nonprofits and government agencies in Philadelphia is working hard to prevent elder abuse and keep seniors safe.
According to WHYY, the Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team will consist of representatives from various agencies who will work together to investigate and prosecute cases of elder abuse. The team will also provide support to victims and their families.
One of the ways that this initiative will help seniors is by giving social workers a new avenue to report suspected cases of abuse. This is important because, often, seniors are reluctant to come forward and report abuse out of fear or shame. And social workers can be limited in what they can do to help if they don’t have concrete evidence of abuse.
Helping seniors stay safe from elder abuse is a complex issue, but this network is working hard to make sure that seniors in Philadelphia have the resources and support they need. If this initiative is successful, nationwide programs could help make a difference.
Spam calls and emails are nothing new. But if you’ve noticed an uptick of strange text messages, watch out—you may be the target of a “smishing” scam. These text message scams are on the rise, and they can be difficult to spot. Here’s what you need to know about smishing and how you can protect yourself.
What is Smishing?
AARP reports that smishing is a type of phishing scam that uses text messages instead of email. The goal is the same—to trick you into giving up personal information or clicking on a malicious link. But because text messages are often seen as more trustworthy than email, smishing scams can be harder to spot.
Smishing scams can take many forms. The text might seem to be a simple wrong number message meant for the sender’s friend—and when you respond, the scammer will try to engage you in conversation. Or, the text might claim to be from a credible source like a bank or government agency. Texts about package deliveries, account updates, or even COVID-19 vaccinations are all common smishing scams.
In any case, the goal is to get you to respond to the text or click on a link. Once you do, the scammer can then collect your personal information or install malware on your device.
Stay Safe from Text Message Scams
The best way to stay safe from text message scams? Ignore and delete suspicious messages, and never click on a link unless it’s from a sender you know and trust.
When looking for a new apartment, it’s important to be aware of rental scams. Unfortunately, many scammers target seniors specifically because they may be more trusting or less familiar with the internet and modern technology.
The scammer finds a rental listing online, usually on a reputable website like Craigslist or Zillow. They then create a fake listing with similar or identical information, often using stolen photos.
Next, the scammer contacts potential victims, usually by email or text message. They may pose as the owner, manager, or leasing agent for the apartment and often claim to be out of town or unable to meet in person.
The scammer will try to get the victim to wire money for the deposit or first month’s rent, often using a fake identity or a fake website. They may also ask for personal information like a Social Security number or bank account number.
Once they have the victim’s money, the scammer disappears and is very difficult to track down.
What to Look For
There are a few red flags that can help you spot a rental scam:
The listing price is significantly lower than similar listings in the same area.
The person you’re dealing with is reluctant to meet in person or show you the apartment.
You’re asked to wire money or pay with a gift card.
You’re asked for personal information like your Social Security number before you’ve even signed a lease.
Phone calls, emails, and even in-person visits used to be the only way scammers could try to trick people out of their money. But with the rise of social media, scammers now have a whole new way to target their victims.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide scammers with a gold mine of information about potential targets. They can learn your interests, your family and friends, and even your daily routines. This information can be used to create believable scams that are much harder to spot than the more traditional methods.
The Most Common Social Media Scams
The FTC reports that in 2021, more than one in four of those who reported a scam said they were contacted through social media. And the scams are only getting more sophisticated.
A few of the most common types of social media scams include:
Crypto scams — Have you heard the buzz around investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? Scammers are using social media to promote fake investments, often promising high returns with little or no risk. Just remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Romance scams — This is one of the most common types of social media scams, and it can be devastating. Using a fake profile, scammers will start a relationship and then ask for money, often for a bogus emergency.
Online shopping fraud — Ever ordered something online and it never arrived? Scammers are using social media to promote fake online stores and websites. You might purchase an item, but you’ll never receive it.
The best way to protect yourself from social media scams is to be aware of them. The Seniors Center Blog can help you stay up-to-date on the latest scams. If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know, be cautious about giving out any personal information. Always get a second opinion before making any financial decisions, and consider talking to a trusted friend or family member before taking any action.
We’ve all gotten calls from strangers claiming to be from the IRS or a “free” vacation. But how can you tell if a call is really a scam?
Sample Scam Calls
AARP has recently released a report detailing seven calls that they logged on their Fraud Watch Network Helpline. Reading through these examples can help you learn more about the ways that scammers try to trick people.
Here’s a few of their examples:
Medicare number requests: Be very careful about giving away your Medicare number. Scammers will often call pretending to be from Medicare and say that you need to verify your number for tests or benefits.
IRS imposters: These scammers will call and say that you owe money to the IRS and need to pay immediately or face consequences. They may even threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay.
Energy companies: Scammers will sometimes call pretending to be from an energy company like Con Edison or PSE&G. They’ll say that you need to pay your bill immediately or your service will be shut off.
As you read through these examples, see if you can spot the red flags. Was the caller asking for personal information? Were they threatening you with arrest or disconnection?
If you get a call like this, don’t panic. Hang up right away and report it to the FTC or your local police department. And remember, you can always say no to unsolicited calls.