The holidays are coming, and that means holiday scams are coming too. Every year strangers target seniors by trying to get them to donate money to charities that don’t exist or fall for other scams. Scammers also target seniors who are doing holiday shopping online and try to get their financial and personal information.
Every year seniors lose billions of dollars to scammers because scammers have gotten very sophisticated. Now scammers are using AI to make it even harder for seniors to spot a scam. Seniors that have in-home care should ask their in-home care provider to help them with holiday shopping, answer the phone, and do other things that can prevent seniors from being scammed.
But seniors also need to use these tips to keep themselves safe from scams this holiday season:
Be Wary of Unsolicited Calls
Scammers often pose as charitable organizations, claiming to raise funds for a good cause. Seniors should be cautious when receiving unsolicited calls asking for donations. Instead, research the charity independently and donate directly through the organization's official website or phone number.
Verify Charities Before Giving Money
Seniors should always verify the legitimacy of a charity through reputable websites like Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, or GuideStar. Legitimate charities are transparent about their mission, use of funds, and contact information.
Watch Out for Fake Invoices
Scammers may send fake invoices for goods or services that were never ordered or received. Seniors should scrutinize invoices, particularly from unfamiliar companies, and contact the business directly to confirm the invoice's legitimacy.
Beware of Phishing Emails
During the holiday season, scammers often send phishing emails, pretending to be from well-known retailers, banks, or delivery services. Seniors should avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments and should verify the sender's email address before taking any action.
Stay Safe While Shopping Online
Seniors should only shop on secure websites with "https" in the URL. They should also avoid making online purchases over public Wi-Fi networks, as these may not be secure. Keep a close eye on bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions.
Don't Share Personal Information
Be cautious when asked for personal information, especially Social Security numbers, bank account details, or credit card information. Legitimate organizations don't ask for this information in unsolicited communications.
Ignore High-Pressure Sales Tactics
Scammers may use high-pressure tactics to convince seniors to make quick decisions, claiming limited-time offers or exclusive deals. Seniors should take their time making decisions and avoid feeling rushed into purchases or decisions.
Use Strong Passwords
Protect online accounts with strong and unique passwords. Seniors should also enable two-factor authentication where available to add an extra layer of security to their accounts.
Verify Sweepstakes Winnings
Be cautious if notified of a sweepstakes or lottery win. Scammers often ask for upfront fees or taxes to release supposed winnings. Legitimate sweepstakes do not require winners to pay fees upfront.
Stay Informed About Scams
Regularly educate yourself about common scams and fraud tactics. Awareness is a powerful tool in avoiding scams. Seniors can subscribe to scam alert newsletters and follow resources like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stay informed.
Seek a Second Opinion
Before making significant financial or investment decisions, it's a good idea to consult with a trusted family member or financial advisor. A second opinion can help spot potential scams or risky investments.
Lock Down Your Social Media
Be cautious about what you share on social media. Scammers may use personal information posted on social media to craft convincing scams. Review and tighten your privacy settings to limit who can see your information.
Be Skeptical of Impersonators
Scammers may impersonate family members or friends in need, claiming emergencies and requesting money. AI has made it very easy for scammers to copy the voices and looks of family and friends by taking their images and voices from their social media accounts. Seniors should independently verify such requests by contacting the family member or friend directly.