We have all heard the various warnings about common scams capitalizing on our love for family. Most of these involve a phone call that begins, “Hi, Grandma!” or “Hi, Grandpa!” with the hopes that the “grandparent” can then be tricked into assuming the caller is a beloved grandchild who then requests that money be sent to get the caller out of whatever jam he or she claims to be in, normally one that requires a lot of wired cash.
If you are not familiar with this type of scam, please educate yourself and your senior loved ones as scammers specifically target those over 65. (You can learn about the “grandparent scam” by searching for it online or learning about it directly from an arrested scammer in this CBS interview.
AARP recently posted about another type of scam we are likely to see an increase in following the recent hurricane activity — scams that capitalize on our compassion for strangers. These are charity scams that want to give those with compassionate hearts a convenient way to “help” following disasters.
The news offers us non-stop coverage of the destruction wrought by the storms, often focusing on specific individuals whose lives have been devastated. While this coverage keeps viewers informed, it also creates in the compassionate viewer a feeling of helplessness. Charity scammers capitalize on this feeling of helplessness and direct potential donors via text messages, phone calls, emails or social media posts to sites that promise opportunities to provide relief to storm victims. In reality, these sites create new victims – victims of identity theft, virus infections, or at the least, victims of being scammed out of giving their money to an organization that will provide genuine help to those in need.
- Never give money or any personal information to someone who has contacted you by phone or email. For example, if someone calls or emails claiming to be Red Cross, your insurance company, the IRS or your credit card company, etc., do not give them ANY information or money. If they are calling about a legitimate need, they will understand if you want to call back to a number you look up yourself to verify it is the legitimate number for that business or organization.
- Educate yourself. Know what scams are out there so you are more likely to recognize them when they target you. For example, read what the IRS says about how to identify suspicious calls supposedly from the IRS.
- Research charitable organizations. Before giving to a charitable organization, research the legitimacy of the organization and how much of your donation will actually go to help those in need rather than be spent on administrative costs. You can easily research charitable organizations on Charity Navigator and other sites like it.
- Help educate others. Take what you have learned and share it with others, especially those who may be more vulnerable to being scammed. Scammers target those over 65 because they believe them to be more vulnerable and easier to reach. Those who are homebound or otherwise isolated are also more vulnerable. They are more likely to answer the phone, to enjoy talking to the caller, and to want to help. Consider those you know who might be most vulnerable to scams and share with them about how to identify a scam and how to respond. At the very least, encourage them NEVER to give out personal info including name, social security number, date of birth and bank account information to anyone who has called them, emailed them, or appeared at their door.
Have you been the recipient of a scamming call or email? Share your experience to help educate others on the type of scams to be aware of, how you identified it as a scam, and how you responded.