We all love to get phone calls from family and friends, but not every caller has your best interest at heart.
Adults aged 60 and older are frequently targeted with aggressive scams, false offers, bogus products, and malicious ploys, all designed to mislead and confuse the victim into revealing their personally identifying information.
It is important to educate yourself and your loved ones about these scams to protect your hard-earned savings.
Detecting a scam
Many of the phone scams used to target older adults use a similar script. If you hear these "lines" (or variations) from an unknown caller, hang up immediately:
- Act now, or the offer won't be good
- You've won a free gift/prize/vacation, but need to pay for postage and handling
- You must send money, or give a credit card/bank account number, now
- You can't afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer
It is almost impossible for victims to recover their monetary losses after falling victim to a phone scam. To avoid this stress, consider adopting these best practices suggested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
Don't buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.
Always ask for, and wait until you receive, written material about any offer or charity. But read carefully—not everything written down is true.
Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups.
Obtain a salesperson's name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Verify the accuracy of these items.
Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. "What guarantee do I really have that this person will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?"
Don't pay in advance for services. Pay for services only after they are rendered.
Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.
Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won't pressure you to make a snap decision.
Don't pay for a "free prize." If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.
Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It's never rude to wait and think about an offer.
Never respond to an offer you don't understand thoroughly.
Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
If you have been victimized once, be wary of callers offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.
If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.
Older adults are encouraged to register for the National Do Not Call Registry.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.