Has one of your elderly relatives been the victim of phone fraud? Do you feel like you could have done more to protect them?
Seniors can make easy targets for phone fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, studies show con artists are more likely to target senior citizens than other age groups because they believe seniors are more susceptible to scams. The FTC reports fraudulent telemarketers direct anywhere from 56 to 80% of their calls at seniors. This means the need for preventing senior phone fraud has become greater than ever.
Seniors are targeted for several reasons
- Seniors tend to be retired and at home more often, meaning they have more time to answer and talk on their phones.
- There is a prevailing idea that seniors grew up in a more polite time when it was considered rude to hang up, giving fraudulent callers time to pull their con.
- Seniors are often living alone or are lonely, making them willing to talk, even to strangers.
What you need to know about senior phone fraud
There are five basic techniques that fraudulent telemarketers can use:
- Scarcity: A senior is announced as the Grand Prize Winner, but if he/she doesn’t accept the prize immediately (and pay that "handling charge") the runner-up will get the prize instead.
- Hype: The telemarketer uses excitement about a senior winning the prize.
- Authority: The telemarketer passes the phone to his "boss," so his target will know the offer is "legitimate."
- Phantom Fixation: The prize is too good to pass up, and the targeted senior becomes fixated on it.
- Reciprocity: The telemarketer explains that they don't receive their commission unless the senior accepts the prize and pays the handling fee. If the senior says that he or she doesn't have enough money to pay the fee, the con artist asks how much they can afford, and offers to pay the smaller difference, just because they are happy the senior has won the prize.
There are some techniques that you can practice with your loved ones to help them not fall victim to telephone fraud. Tape a list of responses on the wall or desk near their phone so your loved one will always have a polite but firm comeback to unwanted telemarketers. And remind them that the best way to get rid of someone you don't want to talk to, is to simply hang up.
Tips for avoiding senior phone fraud
- Tip #1: Never give personal information, such as bank account or social security numbers, to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know you've reached the right agency. Comeback: "I don't give out personal information over the phone. I'll contact the company directly."
- Tip #2: Never believe it if the caller tells you to send money to cover the "handling charge" or to pay taxes.
Comeback: "I shouldn't have to pay for something that's free."
- Tip #3: Limited-time-offers shouldn't require you to make a decision on the spot.
Comeback: "I'll think about it and call you back. What's your number?"
- Tip #4: Be suspicious of anyone who tells you not to discuss the offer with someone else.
Comeback:"I'll discuss it with my family and friends and get back to you."
- Tip #5: If you don't understand all the verbal details, ask for it in writing.
Comeback:"I can't make a decision until I receive written information."
Remember that the scammer will most likely keep trying to convince the intended victim, so it's best to hang up after delivering the comeback line.
Practice these comebacks with your loved one. Also, have your loved one tell telemarketers to take his or her name off their call list. If the telemarketers don't, they're breaking the law. Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. As a last resort, get your loved one an unlisted phone number.
If you feel more comfortable having someone with your loved one for companionship and safety, a professional caregiver can help observe phone calls, or even answer directly on their behalf. Care providers are also a good source of socialization, so that your loved one does not feel lonely. American In-Home Care always refers qualified and compassionate care providers that can perform a variety of services, including Companion Care, Personal Care, Live-In Care, and Respite Care. Contact us today at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home consultation to discuss your care needs.