The criminal mind never stops spitting out ways to scam law abiding citizens, especially seniors. In an earlier blog, I highlighted some of the common scams that seem to target seniors especially in the spring. But con artists, armed with nothing more than a cell phone and internet access, continue to find novel ways to separate seniors and their money. Let’s examine a few.
Internet scam artists can masterfully create real looking advertisements and fake websites that would confuse even the most savvy of computer users. One recent trick is creating pop up boxes, those little messages that tell you a virus is present, or some other message. Once someone sees this, they are often given an ominous message like “your computer hard drive is in danger” or “your passwords may be stolen” followed by a number to call. If the call is made, the individual is usually asked for credit card or debit card number in order to “keep your computer safe”. It is a scam, pure and simple.
Not to be outdone, fake law enforcement officers have also taken to the phones. Many, including seniors, have been receiving calls from scammers claiming to be the Sheriff’s Department threatening to make an arrest for missing jury duty. Further, the caller states that the only way to avoid a stay in the local jail is to pay a $1000 fine -- just give them your credit card number and you will be law abiding once again. Don’t fall for this call. Just hang up.
And just like the “Irish Sweepstakes” con of decades ago, an official sounding voice on the other end of the phone informs you that you have just won the Australian lottery, the Nigerian Lottery or just substitute any country in front of the word lottery. All you need to do to claim the prize is wire $500 to the address or account they give you and your check will be on the way. Problem is you never purchased a lottery ticket in Australia or Nigeria. Even more problematic, if you wire the money, the only one claiming a prize is the person on the other end getting your cash.
Finally, another scam scenario involves a grandson or granddaughter calling an elder stating that they are trapped in another country and need help. The call may come from an “official” from that country or through an email or text message. Typically, the message states that money must be wired immediately for their release. This scam appeared decades ago and seemed to disappear but has recently reemerged.
The bottom line is this, if you receive a call looking for cash or your account numbers, just hang up the phone. Talk to a loved one or friend about the call and make sure to report it to the police or to your estate planning attorney who can advise you. Telephone scammers prey on those who remain in isolation so don’t let this happen to you.