If you are above the age of 55, you most certainly have been targeted by telephone callers and cyber-scammers, and received emails, text messages, Facebook messages, or phone calls from a scammer. Some scams happen in person. A scam can originate from any source.
Scammers use tricks, deception, and story-telling to make their scam believable. They may back up their claims using caller ID spoofing or realistic web pages. Often they will try to scare you with dire consequences for failure to comply with their demands. In the cybersecurity realm, this is called “social engineering.” This is also commonly known as a confidence scheme or a con job.
If it seems that these con artists are targeting you and your over 55 peers, you are right. Older computer users tend to be less technically savvy, they tend to have more money than younger people, and they tend to be more compliant with authority, more helpful, and frankly, more gullible than younger age groups.
Because I taught Community Education classes for many years, I have met, trained, and worked with many older adult computer users, and developed a client following in this age group.
This week I will be sharing tips, examples, and other information that I received from the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. First check out this short video (2 minutes).
So Many Scams
There are many different scams that crooks, con men, and cyber-criminals use to separate people from their money, and there are hallmarks to look for. Just knowing that certain kinds of emails or calls are typically fraudulent can save you from being victimized. Here are scams I see all the time.
- Utility Company Scams – Your electric, gas, or water utility calls, and you are past due on paying your bill. You assure them you have paid everything on time, but they say we’re sorry, but we never got your payment. Crews are on the way to shut of your service. But if you can pay right now, you can stop the shut-off. They may direct you to a web page to pay, and it will look perfectly legitimate. Hang up the phone can call your utility company to verify whether you are really past due or not.
- Recent Events – Scammers often use natural disasters, news stories, and other events in their scam. Often you are encouraged to make a charitable donation over the phone or online. Treat all of these approaches as scams, and stick with known charities such as the Red Cross.
- Tech Support – Usually tech support scams start as phone calls, and move onto the Internet. They claim your computer is infected and spreading a virus. They have called to help you. Only $300 dollars, and good for the whole year. But your computer is not infected with a virus, and the proof they show you usually means nothing. Hang up on these people, and never let them connect remotely to your computer. They most certainly will infect your computer with something if you do.
- IRS Tax Scams – It’s tax season again, and with it comes the annual tax scams. The IRS will never call or email you, they communicate by postal mail only. Check IRS.gov for more information about these scams.
- Social Security Scams – The Social Security Administration also never calls. They don’t need you to tell them your Social Security Number. And they most certainly do not issue warrants for your arrest, or send US marshals, sheriffs deputies, or police officers to arrest you. What they are saying is designed to frighten you into sending them money. Take a moment, does it just sound crazy? Hang up. Check with SSA.gov for more information.
- Real Estate Scams – You get a realistic looking email from your realtor or mortgage broker with payment instructions for wiring your down payment, only the money disappears.
- Romance Scams – Feeling lonely, looking for a soul mate? If you are using an online dating site, understand that the profiles you are looking at may be fake. If your new romance moves quickly, and changes from protestations of love to requests for funds, you are probably being scammed.
- Grandkid Scams – A “police officer” calls. Your grandchild has been arrested on drug possession or a traffic violation, and the whole thing can go away if you can just send some bail money. Hang up the phone and call your grandchild. or their parents (your children) to confirm the story. This is not how the police work. You can’t make a crime disappear by paying a police officer.
- Lottery Scams – You’ve won the lottery! Maybe one you’ve never heard of. The scammer wants to sent you your big winnings, but needs you to send a “processing fee” to release the funds. This is a sure sign of a scam. Or maybe they are just asking for your bank routing number and account number. Remember that with that information anyone can make a deposit – or a withdrawal.
You now know what to look for, and what popular scams are actively used by criminals. There are other signs of a scam or fraud – the method of payment. On Wednesday will look into different payment schemes that scammers use to get your money. These methods are another sign that your caller is trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money.