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Tis The Season of Stealing: Protecing Our Seniors From Scammers

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Home » Tis The Season
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Tis The Season of Stealing - Protecing Our Seniors From Being Scammed

Regina WoodardSummary: As we all know, the holiday season is a double-edged sword in many ways. There is joy, celebration, and giving - but there is also ripe opportunity for fraud, scammers, and exploitaiton and abuse of our seniors and elders. Gina talks about this dark side, and what we can do help our seniors to protect themselves.
Author:
exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

Regina is a regular contributor for Assisted Living Directory


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, though many of us saw the clear signs weeks before Halloween that the holidays were fast approaching. The holidays, which start with the awesome holiday of getting candy from strangers, are all about spending time with family, giving thanks and celebrating in the notion that all of us are from the same place and just need to get along and be friends.

However, there’s a dark side to the holidays.

As previously mentioned, the holidays ramp up the season of stealing – in this case, fraud, ID theft, financial Season for stealing from seniors and the elderlyexploitation, hacking, etc – and while targets are plentiful, especially online, the bigger targets are those who are elderly.

The baby boomer generation has mostly hit sixty-five this year, enabling them to Medicare, but also in the interesting position of being caregivers to both their parents and their kids. They are also the generation, along with their parents, who are finally jumping on the Internet and online bandwagon and who are probably still learning the tricks and trades of web surfing, while also teaching the art.

I recently read two interesting pieces in terms of the baby boomers and their rise online – one, many of these baby boomers were pioneers or were a part of the very start to what we now call the Internet. Those baby boomers who started in IT and continue in IT are the ones who saw the very beginnings of what would eventually become email, cell phones, and yes, the Internet.

The other was about how these same IT folks were at the forefront of the big data boom that’s happening in businesses right now; they are the pushers towards it.

But not every baby boomer takes to the Internet and those that do might still need help. And this is where scammers find their bread and butter.

I worked for a computer consulting business while still in Arizona and I had gotten a call one day from one of our clients. She was a baby boomer, maybe in the middle of the age range, but such a nice lady; she was also pretty computer savvy but knew when it was time for help. So she called me one day in regards to a strange call she had received the day before.

She basically gets a call from someone with a heavy accent who told her her computer was infected and that in order for the virus/malware to be removed, she would need to basically hand over the information about her computer and most likely, her credit card number and if she would please, her social security number as well.
Here’s where this scam fell apart, for the scammer – one, we were this lady’s computer repair company. If she had a virus, she would be coming to us to remove it. Second, we had just purchased her a brand new computer, which she had gotten about a week prior. Third, she was smart and saw right through it.

Unfortunately, others aren’t so lucky, especially those who are elderly or elderly and not aware of how computers and technology work. Just for your knowledge, no one can call you up and claim there’s a virus on your computer. The only people who should call you about a virus on your computer are the computer shop that should be removing the virus or the family member/friend that you’ve insisted remove the virus for you. This type of scam seems to be perpetrated outside of the United States, but don’t be fooled into a false sense of security; some scammers claim to be law enforcement in order to get the info.

And speaking of calling, one of the biggest scams lately is that of a scammer calling a senior citizen and claiming to be a grandchild. Obviously, this can be concerning especially when this ‘grandchild’ claims to be injured or hurt; the scam in this however is that the grandchild is hurt in the Philippines or Russia or China, which at that point begs the question – “why are you calling me long distance and not say, the police or an ambulance there?”

Sadly, several people do fall for this and end up wiring money through Western Union, usually a lot of money like thousands of dollars’ worth. And money through Western Union cannot be traced nor is ever refunded (believe me, I know).

What makes the holidays worse is because seniors are expecting calls and responses from children and grandchildren, either through the telephone or the computer. And a recent study has revealed that as we age, the portion of the brain that basically triggers our gut reactions against anything suspicious begins to diminish, making it hard to decipher whom to trust and not trust.

So how do we protect our seniors from getting scammed?

Well as one Fed Ex employee did, they notified the senior of something suspicious when making a delivery. The employee was delivering a certified letter in the amount of thousands of dollars and he just had to question it, asking if the senior truly wanted to give money to this person. The senior of course had no idea who that person was and luckily, was spared from a scam.

With seniors and baby boomers flocking online, it’s important that we – as the generations who grew up and essentially tested the Internet for them – sit down and explain the dangerous. We should know by now that most companies won’t send an email asking for your password (you did know that, right?) and that anything that hi-jacks your browser insisting that your computer is filled with a bazillion viruses and needs to be scanned is also fake (it’s also a PITA when you’re trying to work and then need to close out the entire browser).

Just remember how they sat you down and explained why you should never take candy from a stranger (unless it’s Halloween and you’re in a group of other children and adults) or get into a car with someone you don’t know; it’s the same principle, except they shouldn’t tell you (or anyone) their password.

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- Article by Regina Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory

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Responses to this article:

David Wrote:
One further tip I would like to offer is that many assisted living facilities have common computers for residents to use. It's probably a good idea to place these computers in a highly visibile, common area so that it is less likely that any 'shenaningans' will happen for long without someone noticing. Also, for those residents with memory disorders, dementia or Alzheimer's, it is also probably wise to make sure that they are supervised if they participate online.
18 December 2012 at 10.26 am


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