Actually, they’ve never been away.
In 2020, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received 791,790 complaints, with over $4.1 billion in losses. That’s up 69% from the year before. Older adults are often the prime targets. Last year, more than 88,000 victims over 60 years old got conned out of $3.1 billion – 84% more than 2021. Victims of all ages got bilked out of more that $10 billion. And that’s counting just the reported scams.
Like any growth industry, cyber fraudsters are constantly developing new “products” to increase their “bottom line.”
Here are some that have come to light since the ones I warned about in January:
The bank you don’t bank with
A Nevada couple in their late 70s each got a robocall saying that because a $450 credit-card payment to Moneygram had been denied, their First National Bank credit card was blocked, and they should call a toll-free number to get it unblocked. After a brief conversation noting that the messages were identical and that they never had an account with that bank, they just ignored it.
Another woman, a receptionist at a Las Vegas elder center, got a phone message, claiming to be from U.S. Bank, advising that $1,900 had been withdrawn from her account and she should immediately call for help. The ”help” would have involved obtaining her Social Security number, bank and credit card account numbers, and other information that would have enabled “U.S. Bank” to commit identity theft. Since she didn’t bank with U.S. Bank, she wisely ignored and deleted the call.
If you get one like that, at the very least you should do the same.
The purchase you didn’t make
You’re scrolling through your inbox, and you see an invoice for something you didn’t buy, or a renewal notice for software you never subscribed to, or maybe notice of a UPS of Fedex package that couldn’t be delivered, along with a handy phone number to call for help. And, being a good, honest citizen, you call to get it straightened out.
One 79-year-old retiree, being “charged” for software he didn’t want, called the number and allowed a “helper” at the other end to access his computer to “fix” the problem. Thanks to the personal data the “helper” accessed, $79,500 from the man’s bank account ended up being irretrievably wired to Hong Kong.
The blocked computer that isn’t
You’re shopping online, and all of a sudden a new window pops up, warning that your computer is blocked, or that a virus has attacked it. It won’t close, and you can’t quit out of it, but there’s a number to call for help.
When an 80-year-old retired educator called the number, she spent three days on the phone with supposed bank fraud investigators and federal agents. The “fix,” they said, was to withdraw $75,000 in hundred-dollar bills, put them in her purse, and deposit them into bitcoin machines – one in a donut shop and two others nearby. Fortunately, she didn’t get mugged for the money on the way. Unfortunately, after stuffing handfuls of hundreds into bitcoin machines, she never saw the money again.
(If a popup like that ever blocks your computer, you can usually get rid of it by shutting down – even if you have to reach down and unplug it – and starting up again.)
Recruiting Money Mules
Maybe you see a job listing promising easy money and involving sending or receiving money. Maybe you’re notified you won a prize or came into an inheritance, but you need to send money to collect. Or maybe someone you’ve met only on social media or a dating website asks you to buy gift cards or virtual currency, or wants you to send or transfer money, or to let them use your bank account, or have you open one for their use.
They may even offer you part of the money for doing it. If you do, you’ll become a party to money laundering. If you’re lucky, you could damage your credit and risk having the criminals you’re helping steal and use your identity. And if you’re not lucky, you could get caught and face criminal charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
How to protect yourself
· When you see a link in an email, mouse over it to see the URL it connects to.
· Don’t click on links or attachments in unknown or suspicious texts or emails.
· Be suspicious of emails that have grayed-out To and CC lines. That means they’ve been sent to a big distribution list.
· Proofread the sender’s name very carefully. Sometimes one letter’s been changed just to get the legitimate-looking email address.
· Check the sender’s email address; sometimes the name may be that of a familiar company, but the domain is gmail.com or another personal-email domain. One to be especially leery about is protonmail.com. Protonmail is a perfectly legitimate, Swiss-based email provider. But they also provide complete anonymity; anyone can get a protonmail.com address without having to provide any identifying information whatever.
· Use channels like your checking account or credit card to make payments. Unlike person-to-person transfers (e.g., PayPal or Zelle), you can get your money back. With prepaid debit cards, gift cards, and digital currency, it’s gone forever.
· Virtually all legitimate organizations ask for only the last four digits of your credit card, bank account number, or Social Security number. Never give the whole number over the phone or by email to someone you’ve never met.
· When someone you don’t know calls you claiming to be from a business, utility, or government agency, look up the organization’s number and call them to verify.
· Don’t be fooled by the absence of a Spam Risk ID warning or a toll-free area code. Scammers have tools to make their calls appear to come from genuine business, government, or personal numbers.
· Don’t let yourself be rushed or pressured into doing anything.
Of course, there are other, honest, ways to dissipate your hard-earned assets. Some senior care companies, with the best of intentions, bundle different services into packages. This is fine of you need every single service in the package, but if not, you lose both money and independence over time.
Others may lack a way of defining which services you need and which you don’t, with the same result.
That’s not the way we at Senior Insights work. Before we recommend any care, we conduct a thorough three-part assessment of your physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial needs with you and your family. Only then do we create a custom-designed holistic coordinated senior care management plan built around your individual priorities, values, preferences, schedule, hobbies and interests, and trade-offs you’re willing to make. And rather than keep that plan static, our monthly registered nurse visits include mini-needs assessments, to make sure your care matches your needs as they change over time.
Please contact us to lean more about senior care management planning that saves the two costs of unnecessary over-care: the monetary cost and the cost to independence.