Protecting the Elderly From Phishing Scams
Some identity thieves prefer to conduct their business the old fashioned way- by telephone, snail mail or in person. Their primary target is the elderly.
The telephone is a powerful tool for scammers that prey on senior citizens. While many senior citizens don’t use email or browse the internet, they all use the telephone. Identity thieves call elderly people and pretend to represent charities, police associations, AARP and well-known companies.
Unfortunately, many senior citizens believe that these phone calls are coming from a trusted source. A rule of thumb for the elderly is never give personal or financial information in response to an incoming telephone call. If they want to donate to a charity or order a product, they should call the organization or company directly.
Scammers also use snail mail to phish for information from the elderly. Like the phone calls, the mail appears to come from trusted sources, such as the victim’s bank, charitable organizations or well known companies.
The scam mail contains authentic looking logos and registered trade marks. The big red flag is that snail mail scams always use PO Box addresses and they don’t include a working telephone number. Once again, elderly people need to beware of incoming solicitations.
Some scammers prefer to visit their victims in person. They take one of two approaches. Some prefer to frighten the victim into giving valuable information by telling them something bad will happen if they don’t.
Others present themselves as kind and helpful strangers who are trying to protect the victim from financial harm or who have something the victim wants for an unbeatable price. Like incoming phone calls and snail mail, people who show up at the door should be classified as incoming solicitations. Personal and financial information should always be withheld in these cases.
Prime Targets for Identity Fraud
Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to identity theft because they are more trusting, many of them are lonely and they are less aware of the ever increasing variety of scams.
Fifty years ago, crime rates were much lower than they are now. True, there were con artists but there weren’t nearly as many of them as there are now. When they were young, senior citizens didn’t need to be constantly on their guard and they were more trusting of people they met.
Many of them don’t realize how times have changed and this increases their risk of identity theft.
Identity Thieves Prey on the Lonely
Many senior citizens are lonely. Their children have busy schedules and don’t visit very often. This leaves these elderly people vulnerable to scams perpetrated by criminals who seem friendly and kind.
Someone who spends time talking to a lonely elderly person establishes a rapport and gains that person’s trust. Once the criminal has gained the victim’s trust, he cons the victim into giving personal and financial information. The lonely senior citizen then becomes a victim of identity theft.
Scammers are always coming up with new ways to get information to commit identity theft. Identity theft wasn’t very common twenty years ago but now it is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Keeping up with criminal trends is not something senior citizens tend to do.
This makes them more vulnerable to identity theft. They are caught unaware by scams they never envisioned during their lifetime.
Protect Seniors from Identity Theft
People with loved ones who are elderly should take the time to talk to them about their risk for identity theft. Above all else, advise them to beware of communications that were initiated by someone else (incoming solicitations).
Tell them to contact companies directly from the phone book so they don’t become victims of identity theft.