Crooks, swindlers, con artists, scammers – no matter what you call them, they’re out there trying to deceive people daily. We tend to think that somehow we are immune to them, or that we won’t be so unlucky to come across one. However, there’s a good chance that either you or someone very close to you is going to cross paths with a scam artist at least once in your lifetime. You should know what to do to prevent being victimized in a scam in the event you come across a scammer. They target everyone across all demographics and don’t discriminate by class, career, or level of education. You may think that seniors in your family are more prone to getting scammed, and while they are more trustful in general, it’s still people of all ages that get sucked into scams. This is why you need to make an effort to inform every family member and friend of the potential dangers lurking on the Internet. If you’re so inclined and willing, Consumer Affinity can help teach your loved ones to protect themselves with our learning based articles and videos. Please feel free to show your friends and family our Community platform, Split®. Self-awareness and knowledge are two of the most important ways we can avoid scams.
If you are wondering how to protect your loved ones from scams, you probably aren’t even sure where to start. We are going to help you by listing common types of scams, and how and where you can run into them.
1. Phone scams
There are many types of phone scams, so we will go over some general signs that someone might be running a con against you. If you’ve received a solicitation from a person about products, services, gifts, or rewards whose services you haven’t called about, chances are you’re dealing with a scam. Large enterprises do not practice calling any of their customers unless the customer reaches out first. Tech support scams are among the most infamous phone scams. People are being convinced they need a software update and that they need to share their personal information and send money instantly. Relying on the poor technical skills of the people in general and especially the elderly, these con artists are committing what can be described as elder financial abuse. Avoiding phone calls is not going to be enough; you should block the number and report the scam.
2. Internet scams
Internet scam is a very broad term, and they can take several different channels. We will talk about email scams separately, as they usually have a unique approach. Here, we are going to stick to describing ways scammers can reach you, from web-browser by pop-up windows to sending gift cards lottery scams. Basically, any Internet interaction can result in downloading malware on your computer, which can lead to stolen information, identity theft, unrecognized charges on your credit card, etc. You can educate loved ones to not click on every unsolicited link, disable their pop-up windows, and even completely close off all ads by installing an ad-blocking browser extension.
3. Email scams
Email scammers work slightly differently from other Internet scams as they seek to build trust while pulling the wool over people’s eyes. There are also certain red flags that should not be overlooked. In the instance of a classic phishing scam, the person on the other side might present themselves as very important, powerful, or a close friend to someone who is. They will tell you the story of how they need your help. This will often be a small wire transfer that will guarantee that you are handsomely rewarded, once that person is free from a certain country after crossing the border. This is a variant of a very infamous scamming pitch, usually referred to as the Nigerian Prince or Nigerian 419 scam. The typical phishing email can also consist of spelling and grammatical mistakes, jargon, and a very ‘suspicious’ tone. These and similar scams are going to work toward establishing a longer correspondence in order to gain more trust. This practice is called grooming. If a family member or a friend is the victim, advise them to cease all communication with the sender.
4. ID theft scams
Identity theft is equally daunting in the online and offline world. Your wallet or credit card could become lost or stolen anywhere. Unless you cancel them right away, there’s no telling who has them and what they can do with your information. In the online world, not patching, using insecure passwords, a misconfigured firewall or clicking a phish might cause a data breach, and your personal information could get stolen. If you or one of your loved ones suspect that data was stolen, immediately start checking your online bank accounts. Money might be missing from your account or unauthorized charges might show up on your credit card. You should be quick to report any instance of identity theft to all pertinent financial institutions. You should also immediately report the incident to the local police in the event they decide to start an investigation.
If you have an older loved one that perhaps doesn’t live with you, share this information with them. Advise them about avoiding scams and take time to discuss the ones targeting their generation. Senior scams can take place anywhere including nursing homes and elder care facilities, so be sure to give them insight into instances of elder fraud.
If your loved ones have complained about someone coming by to ask for money, be sure to report this to law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission. This constitutes elder abuse, and when it is reported, there will be a scam alert put in place so that more people are aware of the potential danger. You should report and place a scam alert for any type of scam, no matter where it came from. You can file your complaint here, with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from scams of all types is to stay in the loop about recent scam attempts. There are anti-scam sites and community sites like ours that offer the latest information about potential and ongoing scams where you can get even more information. Advise your family and friends to protect their personal information, such as bank account details and social security numbers. Always keep a healthy dose of skepticism when talking to strangers and people who seem overly-eager to gain your trust.