“You pay nothing! All we need is a credit card for confirmation!” “You can’t afford to miss this offer, which is only available today!” Have you ever received a phone call from a stranger who sounds like this? If you have, you’re not alone. And if you are over 65, you’ve probably gotten many such calls. It is a sad fact that, as our population ages, more and more telephone scam artists emerge to try and defraud senior citizens. And, it seems, they get cleverer all the time, finding ever more complex ways in which to steal money from vulnerable people. At Legacy Law Center, we are attuned to the potential for financial exploitation of our older clients, and we like to share our knowledge in the hope of preventing fraud.
Why are older Americans, on the whole, more likely to be victims of financial scam artists than others? The FBI has some theories. According to its website, elderly persons are more likely to have significant savings – this makes sense, because older people have a lifetime of work behind them. Further, individuals who were raised in the earlier decades of the 20th century tend to be more polite (which is a good thing!) and trusting than their younger family members. Scam artists are aware of both these things. All is not lost, however. Together, we can combat the financial exploitation of senior citizens.
Telemarketing fraud is obviously not new, but it remains a serious threat with real consequences – it is very difficult to recover money lost in a phone scam. Telemarketing fraud comes in many guises; some of the most common include telling the caller they’ve won a prize, soliciting funds for a fictional charity, and seeking money for an “investment opportunity.” The FBI provides some tips to be on the lookout for if you or a loved one think a caller sounds fishy.
First, never pay for a “prize.” If you are told that your credit card is needed for confirmation, for taxes, or for delivery, this is suspicious and could be a scam. Never provide your credit card or banking information to a company with which you are unfamiliar – and even if you do regular business with the company, it is always reasonable to obtain the name and phone number of the person who is calling so that you can verify they are with the company. Anyone who says that you will lose the opportunity to win the prize by seeking such confirmation is most likely a scam artist. Bear in mind, also, that some scam artists are sophisticated – they are able to give out false business information at the drop of a hat – so taking your time with research can definitely save you from a potential scam.
Second, never make a charitable donation or an investment to a non-profit organization or a company you are unfamiliar with until you have had the time to ask for and receive written information. This is useful for two reasons: any company who won’t send you written information is suspicious, and if they do, you will have an opportunity to review the information with your attorney, financial advisor, or other trusted professional. Never feel uncomfortable hanging up on someone who tries to convince you that you don’t need anything in writing!
Third, the same advice holds true with any sort of “advance fee scheme” over the phone or internet. These scams can take on almost limitless forms, and the scam artists involved in perpetrating them are very crafty. An advance fee scheme, according to the FBI, “occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value.” For instance, if a scam artist offers to arrange to loan money to an elderly person but requires a “finder’s fee” up front, the victim may not discover that there never really was a loan until the scam artist has departed with his money!
Although criminals will not stop attempting to con elderly persons out of their hard earned money, all is not lost. Education and knowledge are key. We’d love it if all of our readers would share the above telephone “scam scenarios” the FBI has identified as common, and review the accompanying tips, with at least one person they know. You may prevent someone from becoming a victim!
© 2021 Legacy Law Center