While we would all hope that everyone would venerate their elders in equal measure, it’s important to recognise that seniors are often targeted by scammers. After a lifetime of hard work and now in retirement, our elders are perhaps more likely to have accumulated assets, making them a tempting prospect for those with nefarious intentions. Our older loved ones may also be more vulnerable due to living alone, the onset of dementia, or a lack of awareness of fraud risks within the digital age. Thankfully, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones by being a little more aware and proactively cautious.
There are many types of fraud that are considered to be a so-called “scam”, ranging from eliciting payment under false pretences, through to attempts at identity theft, – for example, in order to take out a credit card in your name. With this in mind, we have put together some of the warning signs that you and your loved ones can watch out for, including tips for reducing vulnerability to exploitation, and advice on what to do if you are a victim of a scam.
How Might Scammers Approach?
When it comes to avoiding falling prey to a scam, to be forewarned is to be forearmed! The place to start is to recognise that scammers may approach the elderly, or indeed any person through several different channels. Being attuned to this makes it far easier to spot when something seems fishy and protect ourselves with confidence. So, here is what to watch out for:
• Email and Social Media
As technology has become more advanced, fraudsters have greater access to anonymous means by which to approach their targets. An email or online message can contain links that are dangerous to click on. For example, they may give access to a computer virus, or lead to a fake website in the hope that passwords, account numbers, or personal information will be surrendered. The best strategy is to avoid clicking on any link from someone you don’t know. Never type personal information into a form on a web page that was linked from a message and keep an eye out for strange web addresses or misspellings. If you receive contact from a friend that seems out of character, warn them that they might have been hacked. Always report suspicious activity to your online providers.
• Postal Mail
When it comes to spotting scams, a good golden rule to keep in mind is that if something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is! Postal mail scams, just like some email scams, may contain a false bill, an emotional plea for financial help, a fake charity appeal, or fraudulently inform us that we can claim a cash prize if we pay a transfer fee. A scam letter may be posed as being from your own bank or some other person or company that you are connected to. If you did not initiate whatever the letter refers to, then its best to treat it with caution. Never respond with personal information or payment. instead, contact the business or individual directly, not using any contact information provided in the suspect communication to confirm its validity.
We have all experienced irritation at cold callers who want to sell us one thing or another. While such calls may be an annoyance, most of them are not technically suspect! That said, on occasion scammers may reach out to us via telephone, so once again it is better to maintain a level of mistrust when receiving a call from someone unknown. Always take the details of the caller, and remember that your bank, utility company, insurer, and in fact any reputable business will never ask you to provide your financial information over the phone, or pressure you to commit to something without thinking it through. You are always entitled to take time to check out credentials and are always within your right to simply say “No, thanks!”
• At Home
The doorstep is another place that scam awareness can be valuable. While an unknown visitor might have honest intentions, it is wise not to assume so. Scammers may dress smartly, or even arrive in uniform. So, ask for identification and information about the organisation that unexpected visitors work for. Never let someone you do not know into your home. Tell them that you will contact their company directly to discuss your options further if you wish to. Do not pay in advance for any service, and keep in mind that your local council or utility company will always let you know first before sending a contractor to your door. Once again, fraudulent charity collections are a form of door-to-door scam, so do be vigilant even in the face of what appears to be for a noble cause.
Tips For Prevention
None of us are immune to dropping the ball from time to time, so making a habit of seeking a second opinion is a wonderful strategy for warding off scammers. Whether you receive a suspicious message, call, or visitor, run your experience by a loved one and discuss your concerns before taking any further action. With regards to format-specific precautions that we can take, consider the following:
• Regularly change your passwords and activate two-step authorisation on all of your online accounts—especially those which hold financial information. Discuss potential security measures with your bank, who may be able to activate added protection measures on your behalf.
• To eliminate unwanted and soliciting postal mail, you can register with the Mail Preference Service at www.mpsonline.org.uk.
• To prevent calls from telemarketers, you can register with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.co.uk. Once you have been on the register for 28 days, cold callers will be legally prohibited from contacting you.
• Install a security chain on your front door, and never invite a stranger indoors unless they have made, and you have verified a valid appointment.
• A live-in carer can provide not only daily assistance for you or your loved one, but also an extra pair of eyes on the lookout for scams. At Heritage Independent Living we make sure that all live-in carers are alert to these risks.
What If You Are A Victim?
At any age, falling for a scam can make a person feel ashamed or embarrassed. However, it is important to remember that it is not us who had done something wrong. The scammer is the person who should experience shame! What we can and should do is take steps to ensure that those who have acted fraudulently cannot prey on more victims and will hopefully face consequences for their actions. Suspicious online messages should be reported to the relevant platform or provider, and if you have lost money through any of the aforementioned types of scam, you can report the incident to the police. Depending on the nature of fraud committed, you may be covered by your bank account insurance policy, or you may be able to seek compensation.
Sadly, scams are attempted every day, and victims are certainly not alone. In acting to stop scammers and assisting the authorities, we can all help to make the world a little safer. If you are concerned about scams, you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06, or Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 for further guidance.
If you would like to explore how carers from Heritage Independent Living may be able to provide full-spectrum support, contact our friendly team today to arrange a commitment-free consultation.