The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, but all too often scammers use the holiday season to target vulnerable older adults. The best way to avoid holiday scams this season is by learning the techniques fraudsters use to take advantage of seniors. Here are the top scams to watch out for this holiday season:
During the holiday season, scammers often use fake charities to take advantage of people’s generosity. Beware of phony charities that may contact older adults via phone, email, social media, or even door-to-door requesting donations. While giving to charities is a wonderful way to spread the holiday spirit, only send money to charities after you’ve thoroughly researched how your donation will be used and verified the charity’s authenticity.
Another common scam targeting older adults is known as the “emergency scam” or “grandparent scam.” In this scam, con artists call older adults and claim to be a grandchild, distant family member, or friend experiencing an emergency. Often, scammers use this technique to trick older adults into sending or wiring money. Some scammers even use information gleaned from the Internet or social media sites to make it seem like they know the older adult their exploiting. If you receive a suspicious call or email from someone who claims to be your grandchild, contact other family members to verify that their request is genuine.
This scheme involves someone claiming you’ve won the lottery, a contest, or a prize that you never signed up for in the first place. Scammers may contact an older adult by phone or email and request they pay a fee to receive their winnings. In many cases, this involves divulging personal credit card information or sending money via wire transfer or money order. Scammers will make it seem like an immediate response is needed to receive the prize and pressure older adults to provide their personal information. In true sweepstakes, however, you’ll never need to make an up-front payment. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Holiday shipping scams
As the holidays approach, many older adults enjoy the convenience of shopping and ordering gifts online. However, it’s important to exercise caution when providing personal information over the Internet. Always use a credit card instead of a debit card to avoid online fraud. Beware of fake shipping notification emails, which may contain malware that can steal personal information from your computer. If you haven’t ordered something from the website listed in the email, don’t open the attachment. Instead, mark it as spam and ignore.
Many of these scams target vulnerable older adults living alone. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s safety and security, consider the benefits of relocating to a retirement community, where a friendly care staff is available 24/7 to help seniors stay safe and avoid scams. Many seniors find that moving to an assisted living situation is far safer and more secure than living alone at home.
Don’t let a senior scam ruin the holidays! If you or a loved one has been targeted by a scam, be sure to file a report with an anti-fraud agency.