We have all seen those emails. It arrives in your inbox from
a weird email address. It might look official but generally right off the bat,
something seems off because it’s addressed to “Dear Sir or Ma’am” (that’s your 1st
red flag). It goes on to identify themselves as a lawyer from such and such law
firm in London and they are representing a long-lost cousin of mine, or a rich
Saudi prince who has left me millions! All I have to do is either click on the
link (2nd red flag) or reply to the email with my full legal name,
address, phone number, social security number (to verify that I’m real, of
course) and credit card number to pay for the processing fee to send me my inherited
millions (3rd red flag)! Woo Hoo, Tahiti here I come!
This may seem like an obvious scam. And yet, it still works
on too many people. Particularly the older generation who may not recognize
those red flags. Scammers do not discriminate when it comes to who they try and
get money out of rich, poor, black, white, 65 and healthy, 85 and ailing.
They’ll try and take money from anyone.
Far too many elderly people fall victim to scams and it’s
not their fault. This population is largely trustworthy and made up of
financially fruitful people. But their cognition may be declining due to
varying ailments. People who grew up in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s—a.k.a. those
frequently targeted for scams—are also generally more trusting than other
generations, which makes them doubly susceptible to con artists looking for the
most vulnerable personalities.
What can you do avoid these types of scammers? The Better
Business Bureau has a few tips to live by:
- Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers
are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a
website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Even Caller ID can be
faked. (There’s that 1st red flag!)
- Never send money to someone you have never
met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. And really, really
don’t do it if they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a
gift card (those cannot be traced and are as good as cash).
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in
unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer
and/or steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it
could be fake. (That’s the 2nd red flag!)
- Never share personally identifiable
information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether
it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, even at your front door. This
includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social
Security/Social Insurance numbers. (We are a ringer for the 3rd red
There are lots of ways to safeguard yourself and your
information but following these simple tips will help navigate you through the
world of hackers, schemers and would be internet bad guys trying to do you
harm. And if you know an elderly person, print out these tips and post them by
their phones and computer.
You can always go to bbb.org/ScamTracker if you have been a victim of a scam or to look and see what other people in your area have reported.