The criminal set of our society knows no bounds. It’s a job requirement, I guess, that you don’t mind picking on the weak. They’re bullies that never grew up; but they are also organized crime. It’s difficult protecting the elderly. They don’t understand all of today’s tech. If you don’t understand todays tech, then you could just as easily fall for these scams. They aren’t picking on a feeble mind. They are picking on a closed mind that isn’t current with today’s tech.
A few years ago, as my mother started needing more care, I realized just how many people were targeting her. We’re talking several scam attempts per day. Some at the door, most on the phone, thank goodness she doesn’t use email or the Internet! They only have to be right once; she has to be right every time. The odds are against her. She needed help.
Some of these calls are funny. “Your cars warranty is about the expire!” My mother has a 1984 Mercedes that hasn’t moved from her garage in 5 years! That would be some warranty! She got a good laugh at that one. Some though are frightening. “This is your final warning. Armed IRS agents are in route to your home...” Some tug at the heart strings “Grandma, it’s me. I’ve been arrested and I don’t want my mom to find out. The lawyer is going to take care of everything; I just need you to go to the store for me. I’ll pay you back, tomorrow.” Others are less obvious, like the lawn service that never shows up.
The first thing I did was reduce the number of scam calls. We used to have to install apps for this but now thankfully, it’s a default built-in feature of the AT&T’s service. All of her calls are screened. They ring once and drop if it’s a known bad number. They ring with the ID spam risk if it’s a call center. I’ve taught her to never answer a call that isn’t in her address book and is therefore displayng the name of someone she knows. If you use AT&T you’re all set. If you have Verizon, they have CallFilter; T-mobile has ScamShield. Whichever cellular service you subscribe to make sure that you have a call filtering service enabled on it.
The next thing I did was to arrange for all of her services and subscriptions. That way, if she answered a call, she could say that her daughter takes care of it and not have to consider engaging them.
Here are the types of scams targeting the elderly that the FBI says are currently most active:
- Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
- Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
- Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate financial need.
- Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
- Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
- Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
- TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
- Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.
It’s all about the money
You’d be surprised to find just how many resources that these criminal organizations have to spend and how quickly they strike. From a recent US Attorney General report, we learn that in 23 days one such group made 720 million calls to every State in the nation. The States in Red and darker Red were most targeted.
However, only a tiny fraction of cases are ever reported to the FBI or any type of law enforcement, so we don’t know the true numbers but of the ones reported we know that the distribution looks like this. Building up of trust, pretending to be someone you aren’t, playing the long game, paid off best for the scammers.
You might be elderly and not know it yet
For those of us who don’t think that we’re old yet, I mean I’ve been referring to my 89-year-old mother in this article, I have some uncomfortable news for you. The FBI considers 51+ to be elderly. We lead different types of lives, so different types of scams work on the younger set than the older and we get into Assault situations more often, but we are thrown into the elderly group, because we stop learning and so we make assumptions that are less likely to be true than younger people and that makes us more likely to be scammed. We also less often adopt technologies that could help us prevent scams.
The solution here isn’t necessarily to turn over your thinking to someone younger. The solution is to adapt, adopt new technology and listen. Change gets faster and faster and the better you can keep up with it, the better off you’ll be. Avoidance is generally what starts someone down the path of being disconnected from the current ways of the world.
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