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Layin’ It on the Line: Protect yourself from common scams targeting seniors

By Lyle Boss - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Mar 13, 2024

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Lyle Boss

Sadly, older adults are frequent targets of scammers. These criminals can be ruthlessly inventive, using ever-evolving techniques to deceive and steal from vulnerable individuals. It’s crucial to stay alert and recognize common scams so that you or your loved ones can stay safe.

Why seniors may be targeted

  • Perceived wealth: Scammers may wrongly assume seniors have accumulated significant savings.
  • Trusting nature: Many older adults come from a generation where a handshake and your word were your bond. Scammers shamelessly exploit this.
  • Isolation: Seniors living alone might be more susceptible to manipulative tactics due to reduced social contact.

Types of scams to watch out for

1. Technology-driven scams

Scammers use artificial intelligence for eerily realistic emails or voicemails. They appear to be from a legitimate source, like a bank, asking you to “confirm” personal details.

Protection: Never click suspicious links or instantly respond to alarming messages. Contact the company directly using their official phone number or website.

2. Heartless funeral scams

After losing a loved one, you may get calls about alleged debts left behind. Sometimes, scammers attend funerals to glean personal information.

Protection: Ignore on-the-spot demands. Request written proof of any alleged debt. Don’t hesitate to involve other family members.

3. The fake tech savior

You receive a call or email about a virus attacking your computer. The “tech support” offers to fix it remotely, gaining access to your data in the process.

Protection: Hang up! If concerned, contact your trusted computer technician, not a random caller. Be wary of unsolicited “help.”

4. Government impostors

These criminals pose as the IRS or Social Security. They may urgently demand payment or threaten to cut off your benefits if you don’t provide your Social Security number or bank details.

Protection: Government agencies don’t initiate contact this way. Hang up and report the scam attempt to the official bodies.

5. “It’s me, Grandma!” — The grandparent scam

A caller pretending to be a grandchild claims to be in urgent trouble (car accident, legal issue, etc.). They plead for quick cash.

Protection: Preestablish a secret code word with family. If the caller doesn’t know it, they’re an impostor. Briefly hang up, then call your grandchild directly.

6. Too-good-to-be-true online deals

Social media is a scammer’s playground. “Celebrity” endorsements for dubious products, fake charities, sob stories with donation requests — they’re all designed to pull at your heartstrings and empty your wallet.

Protection: Be skeptical. Research anything before you click. Donate only to recognized charities through their official channels.

7. “Guaranteed returns” investment scams

A smooth-talking “financial advisor” promises amazing returns on an obscure investment. They pressure you to act fast before the “opportunity” vanishes.

Protection: Consult a trusted, accredited financial planner. Legitimate investments rarely involve urgent, high-pressure tactics.

General tips to stay safe

  • Don’t rush: Scammers thrive on urgency. Take a breath before reacting to any alarming demand.
  • Talk it out: Discuss suspicious situations with a family member, friend or your bank. A fresh perspective helps spot red flags.
  • “No” is powerful: Don’t feel ashamed to hang up on suspicious calls or refuse uninvited home visits.

Be informed, be empowered

Knowledge is your greatest weapon against scams. Share this information with loved ones and discuss how to protect yourselves. Don’t hesitate to report scam attempts to the relevant authorities to help protect others.

Lyle Boss, a native Utahn, is a member of Syndicated Columnists, a national organization committed to a fully transparent approach to money management. Boss Financial, 955 Chambers St., Suite 250, Ogden, UT 84403. Telephone: 801-475-9400.


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