Seniors are targeted year-round by online and telephone scammers, but the holiday season really brings out the Grinch in all of them with a bunch of new tricks up their sleeves.
Scammers know that seniors are more vulnerable to their tricks than younger generations, and that’s why they focus on them. Seniors have retirement savings and Social Security income, making them a ripe target. They tend to be more polite and trusting and can be lonely and looking to talk to someone.
They could also be suffering from cognitive and hearing challenges, and if they have been scammed are often reluctant to admit it to friends and family.
Here are some of the top holiday scams to look out for this holiday season:
1.) Charity Scams: Watch out for fake charities and other attempts to prey on a kind and generous heart.
2.) Online Shopping Scams: Many people do their holiday shopping online, so watch out for fake retailers and special Black Friday or Cyber Monday promotions that are too good to be true.
3.) Delivery Scams: Tricking people into believing they have holiday packages waiting to be delivered to them is a way scammers will try to get personal information, credit card numbers, or ask you to wire/ACH money for “shipping and handling fees.”
4.) The Grandparent Scam: Scammers will call posing as a grandchild or as a friend of a relative in distress. They will ask for money to get them out of trouble that needs to be sent to them immediately.
5.) Travel Scams: Scammers know that millions of people will travel during the holidays. Watch out for fake travel booking services and travel deals tricking you into giving them your money.
6.) Bank and Credit Alert Scams: Watch out for phone calls and emails saying there is problem with your bank account or credit cards. They will be looking for your account numbers and personal information to “verify” who you are.
Knowing what scams to look for is one thing but knowing how to avoid being scammed when you are approached is another.
Best practices to avoid being scammed:
1.) Always verify who it is you are talking with or who is contacting you by email before doing anything.
2.) Never give out your Social Security number or bank account information if you are being contacted and asked to verify your identity. Any government agency or financial institution you would work with already has that information and would not ask you for it,
3.) Double check online if an organization is legitimate and if there are any complaints or warnings that have been posted by others.
4.) Ask for their phone number and call them back. Scammers hate to give out their information and be contacted.
5.) If you are not sure, ask family or a friend what they think before doing something.
6.) Look up scam alerts or report a scam to FTC.gov, FBI.gov (the former is the Federal Trade Commission; the latter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation). You can also look for more information about scams with the AARP, AAA, or the Better Business Bureau.
When it comes to identifying and avoiding scams, look for red flags such as being pressured to give information or money right away. There is no situation that requires you to act on the spot without first double checking that the situation is legitimate.
Seniors need to be on guard all year long, but they should be extra cautious during the holiday season to avoid ending up with lumps of coal in their stockings.
Chris Orestis is a nationally recognized senior care advocate and expert in retirement, long-term care and specialty senior living funding solutions. The author of two books, numerous published papers and articles, and a frequent industry speaker; he is the innovator that brought the LTC Life Settlement into the market over a decade ago.
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