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Over the holidays, I did a lot of visiting with my grandparents. When I told my grandmother that I have been writing stories about identity theft protection, she mentioned a scam that she had heard about concerning identity thieves targeting senior citizens.
Apparently, scammers are currently trying to steal from your grandparents. The new scam preys on unsuspecting grandparents who are concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. It works like this; senior citizens are sent an email or issued a phone call saying that their grandchild is in trouble and needs to be wired money.
The email or phone call will provide an address to wire money to, which thieves promptly intercept. And just like that, grams and pops are out a chunk of retirement money.
You’re a Winner! … Or Not
Another popular scam aimed at senior citizens is one that calls them to notify them that they have won a lottery or a prize and then asks them to provide checking account information so that their prize can be deposited. Thieves then clean out grandma’s checking account. A popular name used by scammers is one that is clearly recognizable by many older people – Publisher’s Clearing House.
Senior citizens are often targeted to by victims of identity theft for a number of reasons. First, because they are less likely to regularly monitor their credit report. Senior citizens are also less likely to be as
tech-savvy, making them easier targets for online phishing. They also may have life-savings and other retirement funds that are attractive to thieves who are looking to make a buck.
A New York Times article from September of 2012 cites the FBI as warning that senior citizens are also targeted by identity thieves because, culturally, people who were raised in the 1940’s and 50’s were brought up to be polite to strangers and trusting.
Senior citizens should be cautioned not to accept prizes that they are informed about over the phone or online, especially if they have not entered into any sweepstakes or contests. The caller or suspicious email may also ask for them to send money first to collect their prize or ask for sensitive information like a social security number. Phone calls like this should be considered especially suspicious if they originate from an overseas phone number or an unknown email sender.
They should also be in close contact with their bank to check on the status of their checking and savings accounts. Many senior citizens are not aware that they have become victims of identity theft until debt collectors start calling to demand payments for transactions that identity thieves have made in their name.
Talk to the older people in your life about the prevalence of identity theft and how to prevent scammers from taking their hard-earned money.