The internet has opened the door to
so many ways to improve our lives, learn more, have fun, and stay connected. Unfortunately, it is also a breeding ground for scammers whose sole purpose is to take advantage of unsuspecting and trusting people. Seniors are especially preyed upon. The level of sophistication of online scams shows it isn’t because seniors are more gullible, but because scammers are so good at what they do. But there are plenty of red flags to be aware of in online scams.
Online Scams Seniors Should Know
Wire transfer scams: These online scams began as phone scams and made the leap to the internet in a wide variety of forms. The key to recognizing that it is a scam is when you hear the words “wire transfer.” They may send an email pretending to be from a charity asking for wire transfer donations for a disaster somewhere, or one from a family member stuck overseas without money who needs you to wire them right away, or that you won a prize and only have to wire “X” amount of money to cover the cost of shipping the prize. When the words “wire transfer” are used, it’s time to exit the conversation and report the attempt to the appropriate officials noted in the usa.gov article, “Report Scams and Frauds.”
Tech support scams: Another common online scam is tech support where a random notice pops up right on your screen and looks like it came from Microsoft or Apple with the message that your computer has a virus or other problem. If you respond to the message, you will quickly fall down the rabbit hole of a scammer who makes you believe they are a reputable company employee there to help and protect. In reality, there is nothing wrong with your computer and paying for the often-costly cleansing of your computer will be for nothing. More about different types of tech support online scams is available in the consumer.ftc.gov article, “Shutting down tech support scams.”
IRS scams: Tax season is prime time for scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service employees, but they can call or email anytime year-around. What you need to know first and foremost about these online scams is that the IRS DOES NOT CALL OR EMAIL EVER. Period. If there is a problem with the IRS they will only contact you by mail and even then will not require a specific type of payment. So no matter what the message an IRS impersonator tries to deliver, end it and contact the IRS as provided in the consumerftc.gov article, “IRS Imposter Scams Infographic.”
Social Security scams: Like the IRS, the Social Security Administration is considered a great conduit for conducting online scams against seniors. But be aware that the SSA only sends texts or emails if you have opted in and even then they are for limited reasons such as updates and notifications or for enhanced security when accessing your Social Security account.
If you owe money to the SSA, they will contact you by mail with payment options and information about your right to appeal. What the SSA will NEVER do is threaten legal action or arrest unless you pay immediately, suspend your Social Security number, promise increased benefits for a payment, or tell you to send gift cards, prepaid debit cards, cash, or any other payment or wire transfer. In fact, the SSA only accepts payments at one of their offices, through Pay.gov, or Online Bill Pay. For more about SSA scams check out the ssa.gov article, “How to Spot a Government Imposter Scam.”
Phishing scams: These scams run the gamut of phone and online scams and are simply attempts to get valuable information like Social security numbers, unemployment insurance information, bank account numbers, credit card information, and any other kind of information they can use to take money from you. And they are very good at it. During the peak of the COVID pandemic scammers sent emails saying they wanted to send Coronavirus relief funds and just needed your personal information, or they act as representatives of an organization like Microsoft or Google with links to a site where you are asked to share personal information. Learn more about the many variations of phishing scams in the Microsoft.com article, “Different types of phishing attacks.”
At Sonrisa Senior Living we know that if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. We go out of our way to make each resident feel safe and secure while they enjoy all the enriching opportunities and luxurious amenities we have to offer. Contact us today to learn more! Download our free Guide to Aging Well.