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Scams That Target Seniors – How to Protect Your Loved Ones

Scams that target seniors are on the rise as seniors are seen as easy targets simply because they are perceived as having a bounty of retirement money. Retirement savings are becoming a high-profile issue for marketing and investment firms, therefore, scammers have a mindset that there is always some financial nest egg stashed somewhere.

Likewise, the difference in upbringing, where the elderly are more inclined to be open, accepting and trusting, especially to offers of “help,” “assistance” and “support” being pitched to them also account for many senior citizens falling for these money traps. It is therefore essential that family members should do the best they can to help protect their elderly fight the many forms and shapes of retirement money schemes lurking around.

Ever wonder how scammers get your phone number, address or email? Is it random or is there a science to the targeting? Experts say it’s both.

While it’s important to be aware of the scams that senior citizens most often fall prey to, it’s even more important to know how to prevent being a victim. Take the time to explain the possible scams to your loved ones, and suggest the following techniques to help them avoid potentially devastating thefts:

  • Be Suspicious. If you or a loved one is generally trusting, being sceptical can be difficult. However, being generally suspicious of cold calls and unsolicited letters and emails that promise huge benefits is an effective way to stay protected.
  • Ask Questions and Get Information. Before you or your loved one does business with a new company, obtain a name, address, phone number, and website for the person you’re talking to. Just asking a few questions can be enough to scare some con artists away.
  • Become Familiar With Online Safety. Surf only reputable websites, adjust email spam settings to the highest level, and never share personal information like your identification number with anyone online – even if it seems as though your bank is requesting it. Call the bank first.
  • Never Give Personal Information Online. An investment company or charity will never ask for an ID number via email. If you or your loved ones receive an email requesting personal data, bank account numbers, or other private information, it’s probably a scam.
  • Don’t Make Hasty Decisions. If a telemarketer pressures you to make an immediate decision, hang up the phone. Never make a decision to hand over money until you’ve had time to do careful research.
  • Invest Carefully. The most fool-proof investments are done with the assistance of a financial advisor, not a random acquaintance or someone who cold-calls your house. It takes only a few minutes to contact your bank or planner, and it could save hundreds or even thousands of Rands. Find a planner or counsellor you can trust, and run all investment ideas by him or her first.
  • Don’t Pay to Play. Never provide money to gain a prize. When someone asks for an account number to deposit funds, or for shipping and handling charges for a “free” prize, it’s a clear sign that it’s not legit.

Here are some of the most common schemes – and why they’re especially dangerous for seniors:

  1. Prescription Drug Scams
    Seniors often take a myriad of prescription medication, which can be quite expensive. Sure, medical aid cover helps with the costs, but some seniors are still left paying hundreds of Rands per month for prescriptions. It’s no wonder that seniors are likely to fall for online schemes that promise deeply discounted prices on medication. But once shoppers hand over a credit card number, their money is taken – and they’ll never receive any medication.
  2. Investment Scams
    Plenty of seniors are eager to multiply their nest eggs to provide for a more comfortable retirement. And if they’ve already saved a tidy sum, they may have a little with which to take some risk. That makes seniors easy prey for fake “investment opportunities” that don’t really offer a return. Whether it’s ploughing money into a fledgeling or even fictional business, or buying a vacation property that doesn’t exist, investment scams can deplete seniors of their savings in the blink of an eye.
  3. Internet and Email Scams
    The Internet can be a confusing place for seniors who haven’t had much experience with technology and are not as savvy when it comes to email, social networking, and online safety. When a senior receives an email promising big returns for a small investment, it can be easy to become excited. Even if you can spot an Internet or email scam from a mile away, an unsuspecting senior might hand over his or her personal information without a second thought.How many times have you received a message in your inbox notifying you that you’re the winner of a lottery in Nigeria or some other far away country? Savvy Internet users know the old tricks, but less-confident seniors often fall prey to the claim that they’ve hit it big. Usually, lottery schemes operate by asking the target to pay a certain amount to redeem the cash prize or to pay for the “shipping and handling” to receive other goods. They might also ask for bank account numbers and other highly personal information, which is then used for theft.
  4. Charity Scams
    Scammers posing as charity workers contact seniors and offer up a sad story which, of course, concludes with a plea for funding. Seniors are taken in by the tale, and send along money to help. Charity scams often carry a note of urgency – a telemarketer might note that money has to be given now, or ask that a credit card number be given. This gives a senior virtually no time to investigate the supposed charity and contemplate whether they should give. Such a scam takes advantage of a senior’s compassion, which can make it especially hurtful.
  5. Payment Scams
    Payment scams involve a con artist offering to buy an item from a seller (often an item that has been put up for sale online through gumtree) depositing the money into your account and then depositing an amount that is greater than necessary. The scammer then asks that the difference is refunded. Of course, the money deposited is fraudulent, but if the money is returned before the seller realizes this, they have lost the funds – as well as the item they put up for sale.
  6. Help Scams
    This is a scam that often confuses the elderly, as it causes them to panic and act without calmly considering the situation. A scam artist calls up the unsuspecting target, and with some basic information convinces the senior that he or she is a grandchild in a dire situation. Then, the scammer asks for financial help because of an accident or another emergency. The scammer then has money wired directly into his or her hands. Of course, the real grandchild is perfectly fine, oblivious that his or her name has been used to execute a scam.

Final Word

You can’t always protect your loved ones from unpleasant experiences, but you can reduce the likelihood that they will become victims of a scam. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. And though it may feel wrong to be suspicious of a charitable organization or a family member’s request for money, it’s always in your best interest to verify the identity and legitimacy first. Always confirm who you’re sharing your personal information with or providing money to before you go through with it.

If you find yourself unsure if it is a scam remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably it.  If you feel you need to make extra money in order to survive you may benefit from debt counselling.  Contact us now for a free assessment of your financial situation.  Phone Us – 0861 487 487,  SMS DEBT to 32980 (Cost R1 per SMS) or email:


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