A false sense of security can sometimes open the door for nasty surprises.
In a new survey from Wells Fargo, of the more than 1,500 older Americans and adult children polled, 98 percent said they believed that older people are susceptible to scams and exploitation. But apparently they don’t think trouble comes to their house, as only 10 percent of the elderly said they personally feel susceptible.
Why take chances? Look out for red flags
“Now is not the time for older adults to be relaxed,” says Jennifer Cona, elder law attorney and managing partner at the elder law firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona in Melville.
“Medicare is currently issuing new cards to reduce identity theft by removing Social Security numbers, but other scams persist, such as very intimidating but phony IRS telephone calls. Red flags for family members to be on the lookout for include unpaid bills or late notices, new credit cards, and unusual bank activity such as withdrawals, ATM activity or checks paid to unknown individuals or entities.”
•Be suspicious of guarantees and promises. “Con artists use promises of high returns to lure you into a financial scam. If a salesman says you are guaranteed to make money, that you can’t lose money, or promises you a guaranteed rate of return that seems too good to be true, question it,” says Ron Long, head of regulatory affairs and elder client initiatives at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis.
•Consider cyberspace the Wild, Wild West. “Email is a wonderful way for the boomer generation to keep up with friends, but it’s a good idea to talk to them about phishing emails. Remind them that even emails ‘from friends’ can be dangerous. Hackers can send personalized emails to the victim’s friends, names on it and all,” says Andrew Newman, CEO and founder of Reason Core Security in Manhattan.
They should also be mindful of clicking on links in emails and attachments that can be infected with malware that steal passwords and damage files.
For sure, online shopping can have appeal for seniors. However, says Newman, “It’s easy to get suckered if someone doesn’t know when to be cautious. Some e-commerce sites are merely scams.”