Our last two blogs devoted to elder fraud highlighted how and why seniors are being targeted in unprecedented numbers and what the Bank is doing to help protect its customers. We also provided summaries of some of today's most common scams. In this third blog, we provide tips to help you or a loved one avoid becoming a victim.
The best thing you can do to avoid suffering a financial loss as a result of fraud (or to help protect an older loved one) is to be alert and think through the situation before taking action. Remember that government agencies, including the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, rarely, if ever, make contact by telephone or email. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency, chances are it's a scam.
In general, when it comes to unsolicited calls, take the following precautions:
- Don't answer calls you weren't expecting, especially from unrecognized numbers. If it's important and legitimate, the caller will likely leave a message.
- If you do answer a call you believe is a scam or is suspicious in any way, don't press 1 or any other number to talk to anyone. Simply hang up.
- Don't call con artists back and tell them you know it's a scam, as this could result in more calls or escalate the threat.
Other general tips for avoiding today's more common (and effective) scams include:
- If you're concerned that a grandchild or other relative needs financial help or has been kidnapped, first call them on a correct phone number to verify their status.
- Restrict charitable giving to only those agencies with a long-standing reputation.
- Monitor bank accounts closely for unusual activity.
- Protect private information, such as your social security number or Medicare number.
- Request an opportunity to call back the caller on a line that you then verify is truly associated with your bank, credit card company or other trusted source.
Warning signs to watch for:
- You're asked to pay for something with gift cards, a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or bitcoin or other nontraditional means that is difficult to track.
- You're told not to tell any friends or relatives or talk with professional advisors.
- You're unexpectedly asked to provide personal information to someone you don't know.
- You're pressured to act immediately.
- You're encouraged to buy some investment that's guaranteed to make money.
- You're asked to send money to someone you've only met online.
- You're threatened with an account being seized or frozen.
- You're asked to send money out of the country.
- You're told you won something but first need to pay upfront fees and expenses.
Keep in mind that not all scammers are strangers. It could be a greedy family member or paid caregiver. To protect a loved one from being taken advantage of in situations like this, follow these tips:
- Plan ahead to take on power of attorney for a loved one who develops cognitive decline.
- Set up automatic payments and transactions alerts for major recurring bills.
- Request receipts from designated caregivers.
- Do not let caregivers pay bills or use the potential victim's credit card.
Most importantly, whether you suspect a stranger or someone you know, don't be afraid to report your suspicions to your financial institution and/or local authorities. Depending on the situation, they may be able to intervene to limit the amount of money lost. In some cases, by reporting the incident you may actually be able to get your money back. Equally important is that you might be able to help others from being scammed in the future by making the fraud attempt public knowledge.
In Ohio, suspected fraud scams can be reported to the Ohio attorney general's office at 800-282-0515.
The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.