Tis the season to rip off Grandma. Con artists kick into high gear during the holidays, often targeting vulnerable elders. Talk with your older relatives to warn them about these rip-offs and give them strategies for what to do. Adult children must watch over their older loved ones, and seniors – don’t get ripped off during the holidays!
Beware of People Asking for Money by Phone
There are many variations on phone scams, and older adults are more prone to be the victims of these than anyone else. Here are some of the con artist’s techniques:
- The demand for money. The caller impersonates someone at the electric, gas, or phone company, claims that the company did not receive payment for the most recent bill, and they will shut off the utilities if the senior does not pay over the phone with a check or credit card. Another version is that the caller claims to be with the IRS and threatens to arrest the elder, if she does not pay immediately over the phone.
- Grandparent scam. A con artist calls a senior and says that a grandchild is in desperate straits, needing money to pay a speeding ticket or doctor bills for emergency medical treatment in another country. The grandparent wires the money to someone in another country, only to discover later that the grandchild was not in trouble and had nothing to do with the rip-off.
- Fake companies. Being on a fixed income, your grandfather tries to save a little money on holiday gifts. He buys items, like gift cards, at a sharply discounted rate from an email he received. Either the items never arrive, or he discovers that they are knock-off or useless goods. For example, scammers sell gift cards that people have redeemed. Then the con artist runs up unauthorized charges on your grandpa’s credit card. Some charlatans even set up fake websites that look similar to legitimate, well-known merchants.
Strategies to Protect Seniors from Holiday Rip-offs
When a person has a plan about what to do in a situation, it is easier to act calmly when that event happens. Just as with martial arts moves, your loved one should repeatedly practice what to do in scenarios, until the response becomes like muscle memory. These tips can protect your older loved one from holiday scammers:
- Tell your loved one never to pay anyone over the phone. Just take down the information and let you check out the person.
- Scammers harvest information from social media accounts to perpetrate their cons. Tell your older relatives to limit what they post for public view and never include their phone number, address, date of birth, or other personal information online. Posting about where your grandchild goes to college, for example, gives con artists details they can use to sound like a friend of your grandkid.
- If it sounds too good to be true – it is. This adage never goes out of date. Resist the temptation to get a “great deal.” The only person likely to get a great deal is the scammer – at your expense.
- Do not click on links in emails. Instead, exit the email and do an online search for the legitimate company. Go into that firm’s website, not the one from an email.
Being aware of holiday scams that target seniors and knowing how to handle them, can help prevent these rip-offs. Talk to an elder law attorney in your area to discover how to protect your loved one’s finances and to learn how your state might have different regulations from the general law of this article.
The Arbor Company. “Holiday Scams Targeting the Elderly to Watch Out For.” (accessed October 19, 2019) https://blog.arborcompany.com/holiday-scams-targeting-the-elderly-to-watch-out-for