Author: Brian Watson / In collaboration with https://roseadvocacy.org
I recently retired from Federal law enforcement after 28 years of investigating financial crimes and I am now working for R.O.S.E. Resources/Outreach to Safeguard the Elderly, an Arizona non-profit founded in 2021. Our mission is to prevent the financial exploitation and defrauding of older adults through advocacy and education. Our goal is to reduce the number of victims and losses of financial frauds. We utilize a team of experts to stay aware of the latest scams. I want tohighlight a few current phone related schemes and some common-sense ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
This summer, my friend’s mother-in-law was contacted by phone and the caller convinced her she had a refund due on one of her online subscription services. The scammer told her the only way to get the refund to her was to allow him to remotely connect to her computer and transfer the money directly into her bank account. She agreed and gave the scammer remote access to her computer. The scammer made it appear the victim entered the wrong dollar amount and claimed she stole money from the company. The scammer became very pushy and demanded the money be paid back immediately via gift cards. The scammer convinced her to go to her bank and withdraw over $20,000.
Most of you have heard of the grandparent scam and think “I would never fall for that.” Last month, I met with someone who was victimized by this scam. He received a phone call from a panicked girl’s voice who said “Grandpa”. He thought it was his granddaughter since she lived in Phoenix and the caller ID had a Phoenix area code. The person on the call said she was in jail after the car she was riding in got pulled over and the driver had drugs in the car. Soon a man claiming to be an attorney said he could get her out of jail for $15,000. He also said the judge put a gag order in place so the victim was not to talk to anyone.
In another variation of this scheme, the caller will say there was a car accident and the other driver won’t press charges if a payment is made immediately. Now with Artificial Intelligence (AI), scammers can take your grandchild’s voice and use it in their call. That is why it is always a good idea to set your social media accounts to private.
In another scheme, scammers are scouring funeral home websites and online obituaries to find upcoming services. They call family members claiming to be from the funeral home. The scammers will say that a payment did not go through and threaten to cancel the service if the victims do not send them money. They ask for your credit card number or some other form of payment. Resist the pressure to
act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Hang up and contact the funeral home using a verified number.
All of these scams follow the same basic pattern. A potential victim is contacted, they are given a compelling reason to act, and then they are told to pay money. In every scheme, there is an urgency factor. The criminals play on your emotions, want you to panic, and not allow you to talk to anyone else. Some scammers will tell you to put your phone on do not disturb.
They know you will do anything to protect your family. If something is legitimate, you never have to make a rushed decision. Time is your ally. If something doesn’t sound right, stop what you are doing and reach out to a family member or friend. If someone is claiming to be from one of your financial institutions you use, hang up and drive down to your local branch or call the verified number for your financial institution.
Always remember these scammers are professionals. They are using scripts that work. They update their scripts to improve them. You don’t have to be nice. It is OK to hang up or tell a lie if you have to. If you find yourself on the phone or online with someone you don’t know, say “there is someone at the door, I have another call, or my food is burning in the oven.” Better yet, don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number.
From my years in Federal law enforcement, I know criminals target older adults because they come from a more trusting generation and have often accumulated wealth over a lifetime. If you have an older family member, it is important to have discussions with them on what they would do when they receive one of the scam calls mentioned in this article. They need to have a plan on what to do and say if they are targeted by a scammer. My mother has received two of the grandparent scam calls. We have talked about this scam so she knows how to recognize it and what to do when she gets the call.
In closing, I wanted to share some other valuable advice. Criminals are now asking victims to take advances on credit cards. It is prudent idea to set limits or turn off the option to take a cash advance on credit cards. Also, consider closing credit cards and/or lowering credit limits. Again, these are conversations to have now instead of dealing with the aftermath of a family member being the victim of a financial scam.
For current information and scams, please go to our website – Roseadvocacy.org. At the bottom of the page, you can click the blue button to get signed up for our monthly email or contact us at email@example.com to get on our mailing list. You can also follow us on Facebook. And lastly, please share this article with family, friends, and neighbors.
With your help, we can drastically reduce the number of victims.