A scam can be initiated via the computer (email, internet, social media), text, postal mail, in person or a phone call. No matter the origin of the scam, the characteristics are the same:
There will always be scams, particularly those targeted at seniors. This month’s newsletter identifies some common scams and some tips to help you take control of the situation and stay safe and stay in control.
One of the most common scams presented to seniors is the Grandparent Scam. The caller claims to be a relative, a grandson or granddaughter, and the call is urgent. Typically, the grandchild is out of town and is in trouble, needs money fast for some emergency, and doesn’t want the rest of the family to know. The caller may have bits of information, some of which could be collected from sources like social media, and prompts the senior to provide more information, making the call appear genuine.
This is not a legitimate call. Hang up the phone and contact your family or the authorities.
In this case, the scammer would send their target a check or something else of value, whether in the mail, email, text or phone call, that indicates the recipient won something. In order to claim the “prize,” the recipient may have to send a check or money order to cover taxes and fees, and may be asked for banking information to deposit the winnings, or to buy something to enter the contest. This is so the scammer can obtain private banking information. The name of the sweepstakes may seem familiar – quite often scammers will do this to make it recognizable.
Legitimate contents do not ask for money or financial information up front. Do not respond to these messages with a check, money order or cash. It is always best to never provide identifying information to anyone over the phone, text, or email especially your bank account information.
Scammers target seniors by providing home improvement services in order to gain access to their home, belongings, and personal information. They will arrive at their target’s house, offer free inspections, or offer services to fix something they deem “needs work”. Scammer will pretend to be working for the local town or county to appear more legitimate.
The homeowner should stay in control of the situation and not be intimidated by the person at their door.
Scammers will target seniors in an effort to obtain financial information by claiming to be from an important institution such as a credit card company, Microsoft, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, phone company, power company, and so on. Never feel pressured to commit to anything over the phone.
There are many ways scammers are using technology to take advantage of seniors. Whether it is a special offer via email, attempts to acquire your user name and password via a scheme, or skimming of information while shopping online, there are ways you can be in control and keep your information safe. If you are computer-savvy, keep these tips in mind to keep your information safe:
Never click on links in emails.
Don’t open attachments for special offers.
While there are many charities that are worthy of your donations, be sure you know who you are donating to.
If you feel you have been scammed, or are concerned that you are a victim of fraud, contact your local law enforcement immediately. Remember to keep a close eye on bank and credit card statements, and report any unusual activity.
Stay informed. Remember, you are in control!
These tips are brought to you in the Commonwealth of Virginia by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency in coordination with: