Scammers often target the elderly, and parents are especially vulnerable because they want to help their children in any way possible. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common scams, and give you tips on how to prevent your parents from being victimized.
What are the most common types of phone scams on the elderly in Texas?
The most common phone scams are the Grandparent Scam, the IRS Scam, the Utility Bill Scam, the Tech support Scam, the Charity Scam, and the Sweepstakes Scam.
The Grandparent Scam
The Grandparent Scam is when a scammer calls pretending to be a grandchild in distress and asks the victim to wire money immediately. This scam often targets the elderly, who may be more likely to fall for it because they want to help their grandchildren in any way possible.
The scammer will usually call and say something like, "Grandma, it's me, your grandson. I'm in trouble and I need you to wire me money right away." They may also use emotional blackmail, like saying, "I'm sorry I'm in trouble, please don't tell my parents." They are also skilled in getting the name of the grandchild out of the person being scammed and will use it to reinforce the idea that they are in fact the grandson.
Recently this happened to a relative of mine. The scammer tried to say he was a nephew visiting and was arrested in Arkansas. He even used my cousin's name, because he was able to get it out of my uncle without him realizing it. My uncle called me because he knew I was a lawyer and was hoping I could find an Arkansas attorney for my cousin. He was also trying to figure out how to raise the bail money, or whatever the scammer was after. The thing is, my cousin lived in Germany and hadn't been to the U.S. in years. Eventually, my uncle was able to reach his sister, my aunt, and confirmed that my cousin was still safely in Germany and not in some Arkansas jail somewhere.
To avoid this scam, ask questions that only your real grandson (or nephew in my Uncle's case) would know the answer to. For example, "What is your favorite video game?" or "What school do you go to?" If the caller can't answer these questions, it's a scam.
The IRS Scam
The IRS Scam is when a scammer calls and tells the victim that they owe money to the IRS and must pay it immediately. This scam often targets immigrants who may not be familiar with the U.S. tax system or the elderly who might be more easily confused. The scammer will usually try to scare the victim, saying things like, "You're going to go to jail if you don't pay!" or "You're going to get deported if you don't pay!"
They may also try to get the victim to wire money, or buy gift cards and give them the codes.
To avoid this scam, remember that the IRS will never call you and ask for money. They will also never threaten to deport you if you don't pay. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to the IRS fraud hotline at 1-800-366-4484.
The Utility Bill Scam
The Utility Bill Scam is when a scammer calls and tells the victim that they owe money for their utility bill, and must pay it immediately. This scam often targets seniors, who may be more likely to fall for it because they may not be able to afford to miss a payment on their utility bills.
The scammer will usually call and say something like, "Hello, this is your utility company. You missed your payment, and we need you to pay right away." They may also try to get the victim to wire money, or buy gift cards and give them the codes.
To avoid this scam, remember that your utility company will never call and ask for money. They will also never threaten to turn off your service if you don't pay. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to your utility company.
The Tech Support Scam
The tech support scam usually starts with an email or phone call from someone who says they are from Microsoft or another tech company. They will say that there is a problem with the victim's computer, and they need access to the computer in order to fix it. Once they have access, the scammer can steal personal information or install malware on the victim's computer.
To avoid this scam, remember that Microsoft and other tech companies will never call and ask for access to your computer. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to Microsoft. You can also install software like Malwarebytes or Norton Security to help protect your computer from scams and malware.
The Charity Scam
The Charity scam is when a scammer calls and asks for donations to a fake charity. They may even claim to be from a real charity, but the donations will never actually be used for charitable purposes.
The scammer will usually call and say something like, "Hello, this is your charity. You missed your donation, and we need you to pay right away." They may also try to get the victim to wire money, or buy gift cards and give them the codes.
To avoid this scam, hang up and report it to the charity. You can also visit Charity Navigator to research charities before donating.
The sweepstakes scam
The sweepstakes scam is when a scammer calls and tells the victim that they have won a prize, and asks them to send money to collect the prize. This scam can be very convincing, as the scammer often has some of the victim's personal information.
The scammer will usually call and say something like, "Hello, this is your sweepstakes company. You've won a prize, and we need you to pay for shipping and handling." They may also try to get the victim to wire money, or buy gift cards and give them the codes.
To avoid this scam, remember that you can't win a prize if you have to pay for shipping and handling. Also, never wire money or give gift card codes to someone you don't know. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to the police.
How to protect your parents from phone scams
As we mentioned earlier, seniors are often targeted by phone scams, so it's important to take steps to protect them. Here are a few tips to help prevent your parents from becoming victims:
- Teach them about these common scams, and what to do if they receive a suspicious call.
- Make sure they know not to give out personal information.
- Tell them not to wire money to anyone they don't know.
- Encourage them to use caller ID blocking services to reduce the chances of receiving scam calls. AT&T, for example, has an app (at least for iPhone and probably for Android) called "Call Protect" that can help identify likely scammers.
- Install software like Malwarebytes or Norton Security on their computer to help protect them from scams and malware.
- Research charities before donating to make sure they are legitimate.
- Set up a fraud alert on their credit report. This will help prevent scammers from opening new accounts in their name.
- Consider getting a credit monitoring service for your parents. This will help them keep an eye on their credit report and will alert them to any suspicious activity.
- Tell them to hang up if the caller demands payment immediately.
- Tell them to contact you or another family member before taking any action.
- Make sure they have your contact information stored in their phone so they can easily reach you if they need to.
If your parent is unable to understand these instructions, it is possible that they are no longer competent and may need a guardian. In which case, you'll need an attorney to help get you or someone else that is qualified to help appointed.
By following these tips, you can help protect your parents from being scammed.
What to do if your parent has been scammed
If your parent has been scammed, there are a few things you can do to help them.
First, encourage them to report the scam to the police. The more information the police have, the better chance they have of catching the scammer.
Second, you can help them monitor their credit report and bank accounts for any suspicious activity. This will help them catch any scams that may be happening in their name.
Third, you can help them stay informed about new scams that are happening. The more knowledge they have about scams, the better chance they have of avoiding them.
Finally, when someone is scammed, they often feel embarrassed and ashamed. They may feel like they were taken advantage of, and they may worry that others will find out. This can be a very difficult experience, and it's important to provide support to the victim. Let them know that you're there for them, and let them know that it's not their fault. It's important to reassure them that they did nothing wrong.
Phone scams are becoming more and more common, and seniors are often the targets. Here we have talked about the most common phone scams and how to prevent them from happening to your parents. We also shared what to do if your parent has been scammed. Remember that it is important to stay informed about new scams so that you can help protect your loved ones. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. 214-292-4225