Imagine this…You are an elderly person who lives alone.
You get a call from someone at your bank claiming that your personal banking and/or credit card accounts have been compromised. In order to confirm your identity and correct the problem, they need your account information, card numbers, and sensitive personal information (such as your home address, birthdate, and social security number).
Once they have all of your information, they tell you that a bank representative will come to your home that same day and pick up your old cards for disposal. The “bank representative” comes to your home, takes your cards, and proceeds to max out your accounts.
By the time you realize that your accounts have now actually been compromised, the “bank representative” has disappeared and the number that called you no longer exists.
This telephone scam has been operative for years, but even today the elderly still fall prey to the deception and lose everything. The chances of recovering those funds are scarce and the chances of protecting your personal information moving forward are even slimmer.
The Grandparent Scam
More recently, elderly grandparents have been targeted with a new telephone scam involving their grandchildren – appropriate called, the “Grandparent Scam.”
The details can vary, but the scam typically works like this:
- The “grandchild” will often plead with you not to tell their parents they are in trouble.
- The phone call ends abruptly before you can get any information.
- Once you send the money, the caller breaks off all contact, making it impossible to recover your funds.
If you are like the thousands of others who have gotten just such a call, you would probably wire the money in a heartbeat. It is your grandchild’s life after all. However, just like the others, you would soon find out that your grandchild has not been arrested and was never in jail or a foreign country.
Preying on the vulnerable
While just about anyone can fall for such scams, the elderly are the ones targeted most often. This is due to the fact that seniors are frequently lonely and eager to hear from family. And whether it is because their hearing is failing or because they have not seen their family members in a while, they are more likely to not recognize voices.
Due to their advanced age, seniors are also less likely to think clearly in a crisis, making them more susceptible to fear and panic. Finally, the elderly are less familiar with technology and social media, so they do not realize how easy it is to access enough of someone’s personal details to make the scenario seem realistic.
What to do
In most cases, the best course of action is to simply hang up and contact the authorities. If the caller really does sound like the family member they claim to be, here are some steps you can take to help verify the situation is legitimate:
1) Do not panic. It is far easier to be deceived if you are nervous or scared.
2) Be wary of calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Ask to call them back on the person’s own phone, and never accept requests sent solely by email or text.
3) Verify the caller’s identity by asking them questions only the actual person would know the answer to, such as the name of their first pet.
4) Beware of urgent demands that money be sent immediately. Reputable sources do not try to pressure you into making split-second financial decisions.
5) Call other family and friends to verify where the person is. A reputable source will respect your caution and give you the opportunity to verify the facts.
6) Requests for money to be wired are often scams, as it is nearly impossible to get your money back in cases of fraud. Request a more secure transaction method, such as through a bank or PayPal. Legitimate sources are likely to offer multiple payment options.
Please share this article with any seniors in your life. There are countless other scams out there that work in much the same way, so even if it is not this particular con, by becoming aware how these deceptions work, they will be much less likely to fall for them.
Of course, scams and cons are just one threat to seniors’ financial security. Without comprehensive estate planning, there are numerous other ways your family’s wealth and assets can be squandered or lost which have nothing to do with fraud.
Consult with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® to put planning strategies in place to safeguard your family’s finances and other assets, both tangible and intangible.