New laws on the way aimed at teaching about scams: Internet Scambusters #982
Scammers are stealing around $3 billion every year from seniors in the US.
If you're one of this older generation, if they're among your family and friends, or if you serve them, you could play a big role in helping cut this massive crime.
In this week's issue, we'll tell you about new laws aimed at protecting older folk and give you the information you need to help the education process.
Let's get started…
How You Can Help Seniors Avoid Scams
Scams targeting seniors affect nearly everyone, not just the victims. Many of us are either in that age group or have relatives who are. The financial and emotional distress that follows overflows into entire families and communities.
So, it's in everyone's interest to help protect them.
"Scams impact every community and often top the list of complaints received by government agencies. Older adults report losing more money, on average, due to scams than younger consumers," says the National Center on Law & Elder Rights (NCLER).
Older consumers also have less time and resources to rebuild lost savings or otherwise recover financially from a scam.
"Financial scams may also impact the emotional and physical health of victims seeking to recover financially while living with fewer resources," NCLER adds.
Now, there's hope on the horizon that new laws and an advisory group set up especially for older folk could help in the battle against the heartless crooks who steal as much as $3 billion a year from them.
The Stop Senior Scams Act and Seniors Fraud Prevention Act are currently with the Senate (at the time of writing), having cleared the House in April. The main aim is to support all of us in educating ourselves or our elders about the threat of scams.
Last year, almost 320,000 senior-scam complaints were filed with government agencies. Alarmingly, average losses rocketed by more than 50 percent compared with the prior year, and there's no sign of it slowing down.
Nationwide, nearly every state Attorney General has recently thrown his or her weight behind the bipartisan laws, urging approval and the setting up of both an Office for the Prevention of Fraud Targeting Seniors and a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group.
The group will focus on educating those who interact with seniors, such as store employees and money wiring services, on how to spot senior fraud and alert potential victims.
We all need to act to stem the tide of elder abuse, first by spreading awareness about the most common scams targeting seniors. According to the US Senate Special Committee on Aging, these are:
- Impersonating the IRS
- Fake lotteries
- Phony tech support
- Financial abuse by family, care workers, and others
- Bogus distress calls (the "grandparent scam")
- Romance and dating fraud
- Social Security impersonators
- Arrest threats
- Identity theft
You'll find reports on most of these tricks via the search box on our website.
How You Can Help
Boston lawyer, scam expert, and blogger Steve Weisman, writing for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), says education is a key component of preventing these scams. Seniors, he adds, represent about 12 percent of the US population but 30 percent of scam victims.
"Education" may sound like a formal process but, as Weisman points out, there are many things each of us can do informally to raise awareness of scams targeting seniors and offer help and support. This mostly involves explaining typical scam red flags including:
- Phone number spoofing, stressing that caller ID is no proof of who is really trying to connect with them.
- Social Security, Medicare, and the IRS will not phone, message, or email them unsolicited.
- Robocalls (with a few exceptions) are illegal. They can't be trusted and recipients should never press another key, even if the call suggests this as a way to opt out.
- You can't win a lottery you didn't enter. Winners are never asked to pay processing or other charges in advance. And lotteries themselves do not collect tax payments. That's done by the IRS and/or your state.
- Tech and software companies don't call or use pop-ups to tell people their computer has a virus or other problem that they'll have to pay for to repair. (Anti-virus software, of course, will warn of an infection, but it won't ask for money or for the victim to contact the company.)
- Never invest in something you don't understand or without consulting a reputable professional.
Weisman suggests you can also help seniors by:
- Signing up for the National Call Registry.
- Installing software or equipment to block robocalls.
- Freezing credit reports if they are victims of fraud.
- Removing their names from marketing lists.
- Signing up for online Social Security and Medicare access.
- Using services that monitor or restrict their spending. Weisman cites two examples of companies providing these services -- True Link and Eversafe -- though we can't vouch for them since we haven't checked or tested them.
- Avoiding disclosing personal information on social media sites.
- Setting up a password with family and friends. They can ask for this if they get a distress call from a supposed relative.
"The battle to protect seniors from scams and identity theft schemes is never-ending," Weisman warns, "but through education and by taking simple preventative steps, it's a battle that can be won."
Alert of the Week
Can you trust the power/accessory cable that links to your mobile device?
Not if it's a realistic looking cable with a secret microchip that will steal your keystrokes (up to 650,000 of them) and other data.
According to tech site Gizmodo, the cable looks like it's the real thing from Apple. But it actually contains a chip that steals information and transmits it via Wi-Fi to a scammer or installs malware on iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers.
You could buy one from a dubious source by mistake, thinking you're saving money, or a crook could even swap it out while you're not looking in a public place like a coffee shop or airport.
The cable was invented by a researcher for covert use but the technology seems to have fallen into the hands of crooks.
The item may be hard to identify compared with a genuine cable, but it underlines the importance of buying your cables from a reputable company or store that you trust.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!