As a friend or family member ages, you may first think about caring for their physical health. You want to be sure they have someone to check in on them regularly, assist with personal hygiene and see that they are getting proper nutrition throughout the day. While all of these things are critically important, we often forget to focus as intently on protecting our aging loved ones from scams and solicitations that may be trying to take advantage of their mental state.
Many senior adults have fallen victim to fraud and scams. Often it’s a phone call or email solicitation that they respond to, giving a person access to their personal finances or private information. The consequences can be devastating, and sometimes impossible to fully rectify. As a friend or family member, the best thing you can do to protect your loved one is to equip them with the knowledge to identify and avoid these scams altogether. Here are some major red flags that are likely to indicate the request or opportunity is a scam.
- The solicitation is unfamiliar and unexpected.
The first thing you should do when contacted by someone claiming to represent a business is to think: Is this a company I’ve asked to contact me? Am I familiar with this company and the services they provide? If the answer to either of these questions is no, it’s worth taking a deeper look into why you may be receiving this solicitation. Most reputable companies will place paid advertisements, like commercials or radio ads, or send a promotion or special offer in the mail to build their brand and grow trust. If the person contacting you represents a company you’ve never heard of before decline giving them any information until you can do more research.
- There is little to no information to valid this business or offer online.
As you do more research on who this person/company might be and why they’ve contacted you, first look to the internet. A quick Google search should yield more information if they are a reputable company. They should have a website that is secure and looks professional. There will likely be reviews about this company and more information on them from the Better Business Bureau. If there is no information or negative information, you should disregard this call or email as a scam.
- The phone call is from a restricted number or the email is from an unfamiliar domain.
Any phone call soliciting you for personal information that comes from a restricted number should throw up a major red flag. Again, a reputable business would have no reason to restrict their phone number and would actually want to make sure you knew the call was coming from them. Similarly, if a person claims to be representing a business, yet emails you from a personal (Gmail, Yahoo, Comcast) email, you should be wary that they are a scammer and not really representing any true business. In this day and age, there is no reason for an employee at a trusted company to not have an email with that company’s website domain. Also keep in mind that people can disguise their email to look like it is being sent from someone else. If anything doesn’t feel right, stop and seek advice before giving them any of your information!
- The offer or request lacks details and seems too good to be true.
Any legitimate offers from a business should include all the details you need to make an informed decision. For example, think about when you apply for a loan from a bank. A trusted financial institution can answer all of your questions confidently and quickly, they can send you marketing materials that clearly outline the terms of service, and they can connect you with other people in their department to provide you with additional information if needed. In a scam situation, the details are usually vague as to who they are and why they are requesting your information. The caller may be foreign and hard to understand. The caller may also be quick to anger if you ask too many questions or accuse them of being a scammer. If you experience any of these things, consider it a big red flag that you should immediately cease your conversation and look for help to block future contact from them.
The unfortunate truth is that there is a growing number of scams on the market that aim to exploit the trust and willingness of senior adults. By helping our loved ones learn to first identify scams by looking for these red flags, we can help prevent the frustration and loss that a scam can cause by not falling victim to their ill intentions.
Do you have another piece of advice to share or a question you’d like answered? Leave a response in the comment section below!