Detecting Deception: Can You Spot A Scam?
Detecting Deception: Can You Spot A Scam?
January 31, 2024
As an agebuzz reader, you’re already one step ahead of many when it comes to being informed about scams and fraudulent practices being perpetrated against older adults. We’ve regularly updated you about the latest versions of scams, deception, and fraud that target older adults through email, websites, phone calls, social media, and texts. Even though it’s a new year, the old scams continue- but are now often turbocharged due to the use of AI to make scams even harder to detect. Just last year, scammers obtained over $8 billion in fraudulent gains through defrauding all ages of adults, though older adults lost the most money compared to other age groups. In fact, adults over 80 reported the highest individual losses of all age groups. Those of us who have squirreled away handsome nest eggs are logical targets for scammers and unfortunately far too many of us fall for tricks and scams that are now more than ever difficult to detect.
A recent poll from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging confirms these concerns. According to the poll, 3 out of every 4 adults admitted to experiencing a fraud attempt over the last couple of years, and 39% admitted they were the victim of at least one scam. Seniors who are in poor physical or mental health seem to be especially vulnerable to scams. A majority of seniors (57%) polled were uncertain if they would detect a scam and the overwhelming majority (83%) expressed a desire to learn how to better protect themselves. For more on this survey, don’t answer the phone but read here.
So what scams are on the horizon for this coming year? AARP recently listed the top scams to be on the lookout for in 2024. Among those on the list? Scams involving digital alterations of your stolen checks (maybe this is the year to switch to electronic banking and bill paying), deep fake duplications of your voice to steal your money from those who think they hear you, virtual celebrity scams (no, Taylor Swift is not likely to be asking you for a donation on Facebook), and multi-layered grandparent scams, this time including couriers coming directly to your door to receive the money you may fork over to get your “grandchild” out of a foreign jail or to take control of your assets after you’ve been advised by scammers to convert your assets into cash or gold.
This year there are a few new scams you may not be aware of. For example, Axios just reported that fake employment scams are being used to lure unsuspecting applicants into giving out private financial information or handing over money for “training” or equipment. There are also the new “Phantom Hacker Scams” during which unsuspecting victims are contacted by a “tech support person” supposedly from a reputable bank or or other financial institution and told their accounts have been hacked, and the institution needs to investigate and install software, which then gives criminals access to your online accounts. To find out more about these phantom hacker scams, change your password and look here. And as we’ve previously mentioned, texting is becoming a big source of fraud against older adults. There are innocent-looking casual texts, where you may not recognize the phone number but the language is so casual and friendly you may be duped into giving out personal information you shouldn’t share. Or there is “Smishing,” a combination of texting (SMS) and phishing, where criminals try to get you to give them a bank account number or password by creating some phony scenario. Experts warn such fraud attacks will first try to gain your trust, using warm and intimate language so that you almost think the text is from a friend or trusted other. But if you’re being pressured to give over info or suspicious of the intent of the texter, your best bet is to directly contact your credit card or banking institution to ask them whether there is a problem.
Technology is also being employed to help better protect older adults from these criminal attacks. For example, there’s a new start-up business called Carefull that uses sophisticated software to scan accounts to look for suspicious activity. There’s also a new online bank called Charlie intended to specifically support the banking needs of older adults, with fraud protection, easier access to social security checks, and other discounts for seniors. Remember, when it comes to scams, your best protection is knowledge and awareness. So keep your information private, your eyes out on alert, and your skepticism front and center whenever you suspect something is not on the up and up.