Did you know senior citizens are the #1 demographic to be hit with vicious scams aimed at stealing tens of thousands of dollars (and more)? As someone who works with these same people every single day, it breaks my heart. The kindness and trust they possess is something we should honor – NOT take advantage of. But unfortunately there are those in the world who see these vulnerabilities as something to exploit – and they do. Whether you are a consumer yourself, an adult child of an elderly parent, or a professional working with the senior population, please inform yourself and take the steps necessary to prevent access to priceless personal information. You will never regret being extra diligent.
Just recently, tens of thousands of dollars was sent to a scammer during a 100% legit real estate transaction because unbeknownst to the buyer, they found themselves the target of a “phishing” email scam, and by the time they realized it was a scam that looked identical to the “real deal”, it was too late and they’d wired money they can never get back. This happened not once, but TWICE!
This is one of the most common types of scams these days and it’s called “phishing”. This is where highly skilled con artists use various techniques to obtain information about a pending transaction (common in real estate) or other information they can use to obtain financial information. Sometimes this information is found by hacking into non-secure servers, other times it’s found by following what someone is saying on Facebook or other online forums. Regardless of how it’s obtained, both the senior consumer and the professional working with the senior consumer need to be advocates for their privacy.
Here are my tips to prevent becoming a victim of this type of fraud:
1.) NEVER provide personal information via email, always do this over the phone, or over a secure server on a website. If someone requests it from you in an email, call them. If you’re a professional working with consumers, never request this information be provided via email. If you do, you are putting your clients at unnecessary risk.
2.) NEVER wire or transfer money according to instructions you receive in an email – even if you have corresponded with this person. Fake email accounts look nearly identical to authentic ones and it can be very difficult to tell the difference. This is VERY important; don’t take the risk. ALWAYS speak with anyone who is asking you to wire money – preferably in person – and always use the phone number you already have for them, not a phone number sent in an email.
3.) NEVER follow a link that comes in an email to your bank account or other account that will have access to your private, personal financial information. This includes banks, credit cards, loans, PayPal, IRS, etc. This is one of the most common phishing scams. When you receive a phishing email, it will seem you are being alerted to various scenarios – possibly a fraudulent transaction, an overdrawn account, or another “urgent” situation. Everything looks legit; they will have your name and often more information. Most of the time these emails are scams! As soon as you go to the link provided, and enter your login and password, it’s been stolen. To prevent this, ALWAYS login directly from your internet browser by typing in the website URL directly as you already know it and use it. Don’t hesitate to call and ask the bank or other institution about the email (using the number you already have, again, don’t use information given to you in a potentially fraudulent email). All financial institutions want these reported. It’s how they are stopped.
4.) Whether a consumer or professional working with consumers, ALWAYS use secure hosting and servers with strong security. Password protect your wireless networks. Hackers are highly skilled – but you are your own first defense against them.
For more information about protecting yourself against identity theft, click here. You can never be too careful or diligent in protecting your personal details and assets, or those of your clients.
Jan Jordan is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Boulder and other Front Range areas of Colorado. Click here to contact Jan and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.