Each year, millions of older Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud. According to a report from the Federal Trade Commission, older adults were scammed out of more than $1 billion last year – losing an average of $32,200.
“Seniors who live alone, have memory issues or don’t understand technology are especially vulnerable,” said Sierra Goetz, co-founder and operations manager at Tudor Oaks Home Care’s partner, the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HCAN). “Unfortunately, the holiday season provides many opportunities for scammers to prey on older people – turning what’s supposed to be the most joyous time of the year into a nightmare.”
Most holiday scams are aimed at getting the victim’s credit card number and other personal data that the fraudsters can use to commit identity theft or sell on the dark web, including:
Coupon or Gift Card Confirmation Emails: Scammers send malware-loaded links or attachments in emails with bogus offers or confirmations.
Charity scams. It’s relatively easy for scammers set up fake websites, using familiar logos and verbiage, to take advantage of those who want to make donations but aren’t tech-savvy enough to recognize the sites are bogus.
Shopping scams. Like charity scams, fraudsters set up lookalike websites in hopes of tricking holiday shoppers into thinking they’re doing business with a legitimate retailer.
Delivery scams. As online shopping becomes more and more popular, so do delivery scams. Crooks send out phishing emails disguised as UPS, FedEx or U.S. postal service notifications that ask for credit card confirmation or other personal information.
Letter from Santa scams. A letter from St. Nick can be a holiday treat for little ones, and many legitimate businesses offer them. Unfortunately, so do many scammers who are looking scavenge information about about seniors and their families.
So, how can you keep your aging loved one from becoming a victim of financial fraud? Experts recommend you advise them to:
- Be wary of huge discounts on popular gift items.
- Watch for spelling errors or shady grammar on websites or in emails.
- Refrain from clicking on links or downloading apps from unsolicited sites.
- Pay by credit card, so they can dispute charges and limit the damage if they are scammed.
- Research unfamiliar travel and charity sites – search for their names with terms like “scam” or “complaints”.
- Buy gift cards directly from the retailer.
- Carefully review return and refund policies.
- Never make a purchase or donate using a public Wi-Fi network.
- Don’t make a purchase or donation if it requires payment via wire transfer, gift card or prepaid card.
“While we certainly can’t stop scammers from targeting seniors, our professional caregivers are trained to watch for red flags,” Goetz said. “If time or distance keeps you from spending as much time as you would like with your aging loved ones, we can help make them aware of suspicious online activity, listen for unusual phone conversations and more. We’ll alert you immediately if we suspect problems.”
For more information about Tudor Oaks Home Care’s customized care plans, visit tudoroakshomecare.com.
If you suspect your aging loved one has been the victim of a scam, these organizations can help – The National Adult Protective Services Association, eldercare.gov, The National Center on Elder Abuse, AARP Foundation Elderwatch and the Federal Trade Commission.