Telephone and internet scams have been around for decades. Criminalistic hackers and con artists prey on the most vulnerable in an attempt to rob them of their fortune; the most vulnerable are our senior citizens. Senior citizens are often the main targets, as they spend most of their time in leisure, usually by the phone or on their computer. Hackers understand this trend in senior citizen behavior and attack when you least expect it.
The New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs rolled out an initiative to protect the state’s elderly. The program titled “FedUp” was designed to help senior citizens and guide them so they will not become victims of fraudulent scams. A few common scams include:
- Imposter scams;
- Online buying and selling scams; and
- Sweepstakes and telemarketing scams, among others.
Phishing is defined as the fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Many times, hackers send emails or messages that mimic an email or message coming from a company that you may do business with, like a bank, store, or restaurant. These messages typically include attachments that you are directed to download, or they contain a link that you are directed to follow. The link can bring you to a website that is almost identical to the one you are used to seeing. From here, hackers can ask for your personal information and, once the personal information is provided, you can become a victim of fraud and/or identity theft. If you download an attachment, a hacker could then install a virus on your device and access your personal information unbeknownst to you.
Imposter scams are scams in which hackers pretend to be someone they are not to access your personal funds or information. A common imposter scam that is impacting many senior citizens is the grandparent scam. According to the FedUp pamphlet, the scam is as follows:
“Grandpa, it’s me! I was drinking and got into an accident. Now I’m calling you from jail and need bail money. Please go to the Western Union office and send me $2,000 right away! And please don’t tell mom; she’ll be so disappointed!”
The unsuspecting grandparent usually wires the money to help their “incarcerated grandchild.” From here, they come to find that their grandchild was never in an accident and was never incarcerated. By the time this information is known, it is too late for the grandparent to revoke the funds that they previously transferred.
Online Buying and Selling Scams
Online buying and selling scams are quite common. A common scam involves the buying and selling of a used car. Criminals often post a car for sale at a price far below the market value. This great deal entices unsuspecting individuals into contacting the “seller.” The seller claims that they do not have the time to show the car to you and that they need you to decide immediately. You don’t want to lose the car to someone else, so you wire the money and wait for the car to be delivered. Unfortunately, the car does not get delivered and you cannot retrieve the funds.
Sweepstakes and Telemarketing Scams
When a letter arrives at your mailbox or an email arrives in your inbox explaining vague contest rules to win a hefty sum of money or some luxury item, some unsuspecting individuals do not hesitate to enter the contest. However, most of the time, these contests are fake. According to the FedUp pamphlet, common signs of a sweepstakes scam include:
- Mailings or online ads that say you must buy something to win;
- Ads that say you must respond “NOW!” or forfeit your chance of winning;
- Ads that say a contest is endorsed by state or federal government or say you are part of a “select group;” and
- Ads that say you’ve already won but, you must send money to claim your prize, among others.
Ignoring ads and mailings that include this sort of language is best. It is also best to ignore phone calls from numbers you are unfamiliar with. Shred any mailings you may receive, block any unrecognizable numbers, and delete flashy emails claiming that you’ve won a prize. These actions will help prevent you from becoming a scam victim.
Avoiding scams may be difficult, as you often do not know who to trust and the difference between real and fake. If you or a loved one is a senior citizen and has fell victim to a scam or is worried about falling victim to a scam, it is best to contact an experienced New Jersey elder law attorney. The experienced elder law attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, & Sweeney may be able to help. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our New Jersey Medicaid planning lawyers at (973) 256-0456.