Sound familiar? Any time you see these words (or a variation thereof) you should be on the alert for a scam. Seniors are especially targeted by scammers. Older people are often more trusting, more affluent, and available during the day, when many scammers call. Many seniors live alone, and can be friendlier to strangers who want to “help”, whether it’s by fixing a roof or giving a prize. Such people are gifted at identifying and preying on the fears of seniors—“Do I have enough money to last me through retirement? I can’t keep up my house on my own anymore”—and offering what appears to be an easy, helpful solution. What these scammers actually want is to help themselves—to their victims’ money or identity.
Whether they are delivered by email, phone, or door-to-door, scams share certain things in common: requests for money up front; pressure to act now; and goods and services offered for “free” or at amazingly low prices.
To avoid falling victim to scammers:
- Keep yourself to yourself. NEVER give out personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or even dates of birth.
- Trust no one. Do not trust people who say they represent an official agency or financial institution and then request personal information.
- Get good advice. Always discuss any large purchases or investments you are considering making with your family, friends, lawyer, accountant or banker .
- For your safety, do not allow door-to-door salespeople in your home. Besides the obvious risk of injury or robbery, it is easier to close the door on unwanted callers than to get them out of your house once they are inside.
- Just hang up. Don’t let good manners get you into trouble. It can be hard to say no to a persuasive telemarketer. Use an answering machine to screen calls. Or register your landline or cell phone with the federal government’s “Do Not Call Registry” at 1-888-382-1222. When callers ask for the man of the house or the head of the household, do not tell them that there isn’t one or that you live alone.
- Read the fine print. If you are notified that you’ve won a cruise or sweepstakes, read the fine print carefully to make sure there are no hidden costs or obligations.
- Check it out. If you don’t recognize a company or business, check with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, the National Fraud Information Center, the AARP, the Federal Trade Commission, or other watchdog groups.
- And most importantly, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
You CAN be a winner – by avoiding scams.