Online fraud and phone scams are a continuous threat in today’s virtual world. The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged everyone to adapt to new technologies as a means for staying connected. However, users should be cautious about who is really on the other end of the screen or phone. Some scams target older adults by posing as grandchildren needing financial assistance or emails directing seniors to fake banking websites (Jargon, 2021). According to the Federal Trade Commission, phone scams resulted in the highest monetary losses for victims. Scammers are initiating contact with those age 60 and over online more frequently than by phone (Federal Trade Commission, 2020). Older Americans reported fraud losses of $388 million through the third quarter of 2020, which is significantly higher than the same period in 2019 (Federal Trade Commission, 2020). While this statistic is alarming, there are steps you can take to prevent online fraud and phone scams from occurring.
Block unknown and unwanted phone calls.
Landlines and mobile numbers can be added to the National Do Not Call Registry. Some mobile service providers also offer call blocking services. If the same unknown number calls your mobile phone repeatedly, you can block the number manually.
It is important to verify the identity of the person on the other end of the phone. If you receive a call from a family member requesting financial assistance because of an accident or situation that seems out of the ordinary, hang up the phone and call another loved one to verify the story before taking any action.
Closely monitor email and mail.
Always be sure to check the email address of the sender before opening any documents or clicking on links. Fraudsters may create legitimate looking emails, but the sender’s email address likely has a typo or is an unusual link with symbols and numbers. Similarly, you can hover over the link in an email to reveal the URL before clicking on it. It generally is a best practice to log into financial accounts by going directly to the website rather than by clicking on a link in an email. For more cybersecurity best practices and tips, read our blog.
If a senior is receiving in-home care, consider switching to electronic bank statements or having their mail forward to a trusted loved one. This way, caregivers and others will not have access to mail that contains important account information (Jargon, 2021).
Monitor your credit and accounts.
You should check your credit report at least annually to ensure that no errors or unauthorized accounts appear on your credit history. You can access a free credit report once per year from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To order a report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, and then click on “Request Your Free Credit Reports.” You may also request the report via telephone by calling (877) 322-8228.
In addition to monitoring your credit report, you should monitor your financial accounts. Some banks and credit card companies monitor your accounts and will notify you of any unusual or suspicious activity. Opting into direct deposit eliminates the risk that checks are sent through the mail where others can get ahold of and deposit them.
To read more about protecting yourself or loved ones from fraudsters, view Julie Jargon’s article in the Wall Street Journal here.
Federal Trade Commission. (2020). Protecting older consumers: A report of the Federal Trade Commission. Read More
Jargon, J. (2021, January 23). How to protect seniors from online fraud and phone scams. Wall Street Journal. Read More
Alyssa Dalbey is a Wealth Manager with Schultz Financial Group Inc.
Schultz Financial Group Inc. (SFG) is a wealth management firm located in Reno, NV. Our approach to wealth management is different from many other wealth managers, financial advisors, and financial planners. Our team of fee-only fiduciaries strives to help our clients build their wealth across four capitals: Financial Matters, Physical Well-being, Psychological Space, and Intellectual Engagement. We provide family office and wealth management services to clients located in Nevada, California, and other states. If you’d like more information, please check out our website or reach out to us via our contact page.