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Beating the Phone Call Scammers: Five Ways for Seniors to Think Ahead and Not Lose Money

March 11, 2019

Will Shirley from Beth Abraham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing get scammed?

While technology has given us more ways to stay connected to our loved ones, it sadly has some negatives that come with it.

The Beth Abraham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing wants to make you particularly aware of one of the more popular schemes — the “Grandparent Scam.” It ranks fifth on the National Council on Aging’s Top 10 list of financial scams targeting seniors.

It works by manipulating the emotions of seniors.

Someone will call and pretend the be the senior’s grandparent, and usually, that person will be in major trouble. It could be jail, the hospital, or stuck in a foreign country. The scammer will try to alarm the person on the other end of the phone, and have convenient answers to questions the senior may ask:

Why do you sound funny? “I broke my nose in a fight.”

Did you call your wife/husband/parents for help? “No, I don’t want them finding out.”

Can I call you back? “No, I can’t receive any calls.”

The scammer will then ask the senior to go to a store and buy a preloaded cash card. They will then call back to get the serial number to acquire the cash on their end. This can bilk seniors out of hundreds or thousands of dollars in just one transaction.

The key is to know the warning signs in advance before you’re put into a tough situation.

Don’t Lose Control of the Situation

Here are five tips that can keep you safe from falling victim to a phone scam.

  1. Verify the identity of the caller

Many scammers will just say “Hi Grandma” or “Hi Grandpa,” and then the unsuspecting senior will say that person’s name back to them. If something sounds fishy right off the bat, turn the tables on the scammer by controlling the conversation and asking the questions.

2. Ask for a phone number where you can reach that person

Many seniors don’t have caller ID. If the person on the other line can’t at least try to give a reliable call-back number, raise a red flag.

3. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number

If you do have caller ID and you don’t recognize the number calling, don’t answer it. According to research by the FTC, scammers are unlikely to leave a voicemail and will instead just try the next number.

4. Watch the method of payment

The FTC says that anyone only accepting payment via wire transfer or reloading a cash card is a con-artist. Once the money is sent via those methods, it’s gone and not traceable. Do not give money to any agency or business insisting you pay only by those methods.

5. Create a secret code with family members

A secret code or password shared only by a close circle can be used in times of real emergency and weed out the bad guys.

If You Were Victimized, Report it

If you were duped by this kind of a scam, unfortunately, the money is very unlikely to be recovered. However, there are plenty of places that are interested in every detail, so they can try and track the criminals down. Or, at the very least, they can warn people of the predatory methods being used. AARP has a good listing of places you can notify, including the FTC and the Better Business Bureau.

Above all else, having an understanding of what these con-artists are trying to do is your best defense to keep your money safe and sound in your account.

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