Avoiding Financial Scams

Financial scams are an unfortunate reality, and scammers are going after our aging parents. George talks about how to avoid getting taken advantage of!

Mar 19, 2024 | Blogs, Podcast

About the Episode

Financial scams are an unfortunate reality, and scammers are going after our aging parents. George G answers a letter from the mailbag, plays a quick round of would you rather, talks about how to avoid getting taken advantage of- but more importantly, how you can help your parents or other aging loved ones protect themselves from crooks and scammers! We know you’re gonna love it. 

 

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Host

Episode Transcript

This week’s letter comes from little Guillermo little Guillermo writes. Dear George, gee, would you rather love the Would You Rather questions? Would you rather you get ripped off? Or have your mom get ripped off? Great question. Well, Guillermo, there’s no question I would rather get ripped off. There are fewer things that piss me off more than at risk people in society, like older folks, and younger folks getting taken advantage of that’s because as a society, we really, really, really need to take special care of those who are not able to take care of themselves. This is children. This is the elderly. So somebody rips me off. Not good. I like it. I’m not going to be happy about it. But I can stomach it way easier than somebody ripping off my mom. I’m also in a better position to be able to do something about it. This is a timely question, because my mom called me upset a week or so ago asking if she was in trouble, or needed to do something because somebody had contacted her saying that she owed them money. Obviously, I’m so glad that she called because it was clear to me that somebody was trying to scam her. But when you get when you are on the receiving end of a serious or a threatening phone call, it is not any fun for anyone or older loved ones are more at risk. Because as we get older, our cognitive abilities can decline. Where else in society right now are we seeing that. And it makes it harder for people to recognize or detect when somebody’s trying to rip them off, fraudulent schemes, anything like that. And seniors are oftentimes more socially isolated, which makes them more susceptible because they don’t have networks that other people do. And older adults have grown up in a time when people were just more trusting. And it makes them more likely to believe somebody who approaches them with the seemingly genuine offer or request. Scammers may sometimes specifically target older adults, because they’re perceived to have more money and more assets, more savings, making them more attractive targets to be exploited. A lot of scams now occur online, through the phone through technology and older folks are just not as familiar or they just have a hard time recognizing spotting when somebody’s scammer and somebody’s trying to rip them off. healthcare related scams are super, super common. There are tons of different medical treatment or medical or health insurance scams, taking advantage of people and just you think about all the different prescription medications that are older loved ones take or the frequency that there may be in and out a doctor’s offices, there’s just an infinite number of opportunities to get tripped up. Scammers also target retirement funds or pensions, they promise high returns on investments. So they pretend to be financial advisors sometimes offering to manage their money. It’s obviously a terrible thing. Sometimes they use fear tactics. And this was what was happening to my mom, there were threats of legal action or loss of some kind of a benefit to to pressure older people into giving money or personal information. This is a serious problem. Not just because it’s my mom is a target because your mom, your dad, your grandparents are also potentially targets that they haven’t been already probably will be targets at some point in the future. And it’s way better to be proactive about this. The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is 1,000% true with this. So here’s the reality about how serious it is. According to the Federal Trade Commission, older adults filed almost half a million fraud reports in 2021. So almost 500,000 That’s a really big number, but it’s not as big as it probably is because a lot of the fraud that does happen goes unreported. People are embarrassed to get taken advantage of they feel ashamed. And scammers also use threats they intimidate and they work to prevent people from reporting their scams to authorities. So, when you’re a victim, you might be afraid of being retaliated against by the scammer just so many terrible things. So a lot of victims don’t even realize that they’ve been scammed. So they don’t they’re they’re not aware of how to even go about reporting it Who do I even tell? So there’s so many different opportunities They might even just dismiss it as this something that they messed up on, or it was an oversight on their part. So if they’re seen some suspicious activity, they might just be brushing it under the rug thinking about, you know what, this is probably just something that I screwed up on. So there’s so many different reasons, but it is a massive problem. And even when you do reporting a scam, or getting any kind of a remedy taken care of really, really, really, really, really hard. So and then even when it is possible, a lot of folks don’t trust and law enforcement. apparatus anyway. So it’s happening in a lot of different ways these days, and it’s gonna get worse and worse and worse, as artificial intelligence allows us to closely mimic or replicate somebody’s voice and speech patterns and stuff like that. So scammers may impersonate loved ones trusted individuals, they might pretend that they’re the President calling, calling us specifically who knows. But celebrities, you name it. It does take the form of phone calls, emails, even physical mail to communicate, I imagine that folks that have a profit instead of which obviously, a scammer does are going to use as many different mode mediums methods as they possibly can. If you’ve never heard of phishing, it’s with a pH not an FYI, it involves sending fake emails or texts that appear to be from legitimate sources, like it looks like it’s coming directly from your back. And the same kind of email the same images as your bank sends. And so when you log in using that, then they have your information, something called spoofing. And that is when you manipulate a caller ID or an email address to make it look like the number is coming from a trusted source or the email address is a trusted source even though it’s actually not. I know, people set up fake charities and disaster relief, which is, I mean, doesn’t get much grosser than that, but it’s happening all the time. They use emotional appeals to get money out of people, so many different ways to do it. Obviously, Ponzi schemes, but then there’s lottery and sweepstakes scams, as well say, Hey, you won, you’ve won the lottery, you are the grand prize winner. But nor to claim that winning first pay taxes on it take care of a small processing fee or other kind of an expense. So once the victim sends the money, scammer disappears. And the suppose Id prize obviously the number shows up. If and this is such a big possibility, if your loved ones are lonely, there are romance scammers that establish fake online relationships with their victims, their dating websites, or social media platforms to gain the victims trust and affection before asking them for money. Like I’ve got this magical emergency of got a travel expense or just some kind of a financial hardship. People are very creative. There’s tech support scammers as well. Where they are saying, Hey, I’m coming. I’m calling from XYZ tech company, it looks like we’ve got a problem with your county don’t want to have services interrupted, you get the idea. So what can be done about this? A lot of the unfortunate reality or answer is that well, it’s not a ton that can be done to stop people from attempting to scam us. But that can provide older adults with information about the common scams about warning signs to watch out for. That’s a big step in the right direction. This can include just you know, you can do so many different things, workshops, sharing material, but I think just just communicating with them about what’s out there. I think that that’s a big first step. And teaching your older loved ones to be skeptical about receiving anything in the mail, anything kind of emails, and certainly phone calls, or unsolicited. When especially when they’re asking for money or your personal information or this needs to happen immediately. Just remind them that they’re that legitimate organizations are never going to ask for sensitive information over the phone, they’re never going to ask for it over email. It’s just not going to happen. So keeping your older loved ones informed abreast about the latest scams and fraud, everything going on. And to let them know anytime that they feel like something is going on that is inappropriate or could be a scam or something like that. It’s the whole if you see something, say something, let them know, Hey, this is happening all the time. And scammers are always coming up with new ways to try to get money out of us.

So if you feel like if you feel like that’s happening to you just call me email me text me immediately. Are you do anything, just delete the email, it’s important, they’ll send it back. It’s important, they’ll call you back. It’s important. They’ll mail you more information. But odds are, you’re not comfortable with it. Just trust your instincts. And if they don’t have somebody if it’s not obvious who they should call designate somebody who should be that person, somebody who’s a caregiver. So it’s a second set of eyes. It’s trust, but verify. So I don’t want I don’t want, I don’t want anybody to live in fear. But we also need to be vigilant and to live in the real world. Where these things happen, there are plenty of bad people all over the world who are trying to extract money from us. So it’s really important to keep an eye. And this is true of all of us, all of us, because I don’t know how commonly you are going in and monitoring your bank accounts, your credit card statements, or just all your other financial accounts. To me, we need to be doing all the time, we need to be monitoring our credit. And just keep an eye on things. Because the earlier we can catch something and get in front of it, the better off we will be versus you go six months without looking at your credit card statements. And all of a sudden, there’s all these charges on there, it’s a lot harder to unwind things, remind people to use strong, unique passwords when we’re going online. And don’t share your passwords with anybody this is pretty obvious to you, probably, but not necessarily obvious to loved ones not necessarily obvious to older loved ones or little kids. So it’s possible to enable a two factor authentication, just an extra layer of security to really protect them. So I talked about just trying to stay on top of everything that’s always going on talked about seeking assistance from people that you trust and people that you know, before you take any action at all, it’s okay to ask for help. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, if something does happen, I would way rather you come and tell me about it, we talk about it, we work through it together versus putting your head in the sand and pretending it’s not there. Because, again, these things don’t tend to just go away, fundamentally, and immediately encourage you to call your aging loved ones have a conversation about this. Let them know how common it is. Bad people are constantly working to take advantage of others talk about how important it is to have an open line of communication, and have them reach out to you whenever they’re unsure or worried about anything. So just to sort of bring this all the way home, I would way rather get ripped up personally than have just somebody that I love care for particularly an aging person, my mom, my dad, whoever get ripped off. And I would way rather just get in front of it totally. Because as technology continues to advance, and people are more motivated by money, and both of these things are true and getting more true by the second. We need to stay on top to this stuff. You need to have an open line of communication with your loved ones. So that you’re getting conversations or you’re getting questions. Is this something that’s real? Is this something I should get rid of? What should I do with this? Versus Oh, I made a mistake. I messed up. It’s way easier to be proactive than it is to try to clean up big messes. So thanks for your thoughtful question, little Guillermo. As always, and as always a friendly reminder. It’s never going to be anybody more interested in your financial success than you are. So act accordingly.

 

 

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