Stealing from Grandma!

Apparently there is a tremendous desire to scam the elderly. I will discuss why seniors may be vulnerable to a large assortment of telephone, mail and internet swindles and tips on how to avoid most of them.

I was amazed to find so many ingenious ways to deceive people. They involve religion, charities, lotteries, sports, timeshares, etc. They are inclined to follow the economy or headlines. During a recession the most popular scams deal with debt relief, job hunting and working from home.

Characteristics of Scammers and the Scammed

The scammer might be a high pressure, relentless individual. Most scammers are men who push for money upfront and/or a signed contract. They are masters of deception, manipulators, ruthless and greedy.

Their business is persuading people with their charm or praise or sympathy. They are not above being heartless, abusive and intimidating. A scammer will often establish dominance and superiority to accomplish his goal.

Their objective is to swindle people. Get their credit card information and bank account numbers. Then steal their identity. Or just steal from their account.

The scammed, often referred to as "marks" or "suckers", are the victims. They think they are doing a good thing until it is too late. Their money and the scammer are gone.

Sometimes the victim of a scam is greedy or just vulnerable and not cautious. They could be desperate to find a job or reduce their debt.

The Elderly Are Often the Most Vulnerable

Just as the pride of lions selects the frail or injured wildebeest or gazelle, the scam artist preys on the lonely, confused or easily intimidated. The elderly could be an easy mark.

The most insidious scams prey on emotions. For example, a call may be received from a person pretending to be a "loved one" who is out of the country. They claim to be stranded, detained or in jail. They plead for money to be sent to them.

Even family members have been known to scam the elderly. Robbing savings and transferring property into their name. Elderly women are scammed more than men.

Watch for the signs that an elderly parent or relative might be susceptible. Note if mail is unopened or bills are not paid. A checkbook may not balance. Uncharacteristically large checks written to unidentifiable charities is a warning sign that grandma needs help.

Tips on How to Avoid Being Scammed

There are too many to list here. So, I will list only the major tips.

Internet Tips:

  • Ignore unsolicited emails and do not click on their links.
  • Don't open attachments.
  • Never give out personal information unless you know where it will end up.
  • Do not link to any website that is sent via email.
  • Avoid any requests for a quick response.
  • "If it looks too good to be true, assume it is."

Other Tips:

  • Give social security, birth date, bank and credit card information only to individuals that you know.
  • Snub high pressure sellers.
  • Never pay money upfront to secure a loan or lottery.
  • Ignore requests to send money out of the country.

Craigslist gives the following advice: "Deal with folks you can meet in person - follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts."

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