Financial scams frequently have some easy-to-spot red flags, but some are harder to ferret out. Here’s a warning: before you click on that fun online quiz, consider what information you're giving away.
In 2016, thieves stole more than $16 billion from 15.4 million Americans, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research. In many cases, it’s seniors being targeted. Research shows that one in 18 older Americans become victims of financial fraud or scams each year.
Identity theft and cyber-security are two of the biggest financial concerns of seniors. Look at these examples of financial scams to help determine when someone is trying to rip you off:
Remember Cousin Steve… He’s your long-lost relative. Too bad he just died, but he left you a fortune! Although digital data breaches and malware are common, thieves stick to old-fashioned forms of communication, such as the phone and snail mail, to deceive their victims. Official-looking letters can be convincing.
The letter may say that a company is already in possession of the funds and could easily transfer them to you. Look closely, however, and you’ll see the flaws, many of which are also prevalent in spam emails. This includes grammatical errors and inconsistencies, and contact emails with a Gmail address—not an official company email. How did they know Steve was your relative?
Did you know crooks will purposely place errors in letters and emails to quickly eliminate more discerning individuals, who are less likely to give up valuable personal data?
Which movie star are you? When you click on quizzes and surveys and respond to what seem like innocuous questions, what information are you giving away? Answers like the street you grew up on, or the name of your best man/maid of honor are often used as security questions on bank or credit card accounts. A little bit of harmless fun online, could lead you to a serious scam. If thieves have purchased your name, social security number and bank account information, all they need are a few quick answers to log into your accounts. Don’t give away your information so quickly!
Microsoft says I’m in trouble! What if while you’re reading this article, a window pops up on your screen that says: “*Microsoft Warning Alert*: Your computer has been hacked! Please call us immediately at 800-555-5555. Do not ignore this critical alert. If you close this page, your computer will be disabled. If you do not call in the next five minutes, your data will be lost.”
Geez, that sounds bad. I better call right away!
If you call the number listed, a member of the “Microsoft Security Team” will tell you that you have a breach on your computer. For just $550, they can clean the hard drive remotely. All you need to do is give them your banking information and then click on a link in an email they would send, which will allow remote access to your computer.
Tons of red flags here: Microsoft isn’t going to contact you about a hack on your individual computer. Come on! No one, other than a legitimate financial institution, should ever ask for your bank account information. Finally, who would ask you for remote access to your computer?
Demands to take immediate action to take care of an issue should be viewed with a skeptical eye. Use caution and common sense.
Reference: Kiplinger (February 26, 2018) “How to Spot a Scam: Here are 3 I Dodged”