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Guest blogger standing in city

Fraud Conversations with Seniors

This is a sponsored post from guest blogger Charles Koh of www.charleskoh.com.

Generation Gap

There's a big generation gap in today's mobile-first, high tech world where everything can be done wirelessly and at a blink of an eye. Most teens have grown up using technology and are accustomed to the Internet, social media and mobile apps. Older parents or grandparents, however, might have had exposure to email, mobile apps and the Internet, but some may lack relevancy and knowledge when it involves understanding the next big app or evolving digital trends. Technology changes quickly, and that includes the techniques scammers use to target seniors.

For this article, I want to provide a millennial's perspective on fraud protection and how we can help protect our parents and grandparents from being taken advantage of in the digital age.

Why is it important to have this conversation?

It's important to start having a conversation with your parents about technology, and the various techniques for protecting oneself against being taken advantage of by online scammers. In 2018 alone, the Federal Trade Commission collected more than 1.4 million fraud reports (source: FTC.gov). People reported losing money in 25% of those incidents, totaling $1.48 billion in losses. We don't want our parents to be part of this statistic.

Technology is the new gateway for how consumers get things done, and yet, it also makes people—especially seniors—more vulnerable to financial scams. Research shows that the older you get, the greater the risk for financial fraud.


How to talk with your parents or grandparents

Here are a few steps you can take to ease into a conversation with them about spotting and avoiding scams.

  1. Set up a call or schedule an in-person meeting with your parents or grandparents to discuss the importance of fraud safety and prevention.

  2. Review online security resources from your credit union.

  3. Educate your family about the common types of scams that are out there and what they can do about it.

Here are two actual financial scams that happened to my family. By sharing our stories and tips on what to recognize, my hope is that you can help avoid something like this happening to your loved ones.

Fraud Impacted my Family

The first scam was conducted over the phone by a fraudster impersonating a company who threatened to shut off power to our business if we didn't pay an overdue balance on our utility bill. The compelling thing about this scam was the faux company impersonated exactly how a local utility talks and created a sense of urgency with my mother-in-law. She ended up falling for this scam and bought thousands of dollars' worth of Apple iTunes Gift Cards and sent them to the fraudster. This happened for three months until I discovered the fraud, and told her that this was scam.

This is a classic example of how scammers take advantage of vulnerable populations. But really, this can happen to anyone who is not aware of this tactic.

The second time a loved one of mine fell victim to a scam involved my mom. Over the course of six months she received late unpaid toll notices of around $150-300 from letters that appeared legitimate. It demanded my mom to pay fines or else she'd be charged late fees. My mom called the listed phone number and it went to a recording that sounded authentic. She ended up paying around $1,000 until we did our research and discovered that the bills were fraudulent.

Charles Senior Fraud Article

How to Spot Scams

  1. Ensure the requested toll charge is from the official website.

  2. Always double-check your driving record to see if a bill matches actual toll charges.

  3. Call directly into the phone number for the official toll agency listed on the official website instead of the one listed in the mail. With the increase in phishing and call re-directs, it's hard to know if bills and calls you receive are legitimate.

  4. Gift cards are never official forms of payment for legitimate bills, bridge tolls, or other services

Fraud Awareness Protection Tips

  1. Change your passwords often and don't use the same password across websites.

  2. Avoid using free public Wi-Fi.

  3. Don't click on Web browser pop-ups, strange links or open emails from unknown senders.

  4. Always do your research before sending anyone money.

  5. Attend fraud prevention events.

  6. Set up automatic payments through a credible financial institution.

  7. Use a robocall blocker or subscribe to one through your mobile carrier.

  8. Request a free annual credit report to check for any unknown credit inquiries or collection charges.

  9. And if you think you've been scammed, contact your financial institution to inform them of the issue and ask for advice on what to do.

BECU has some great resources on how not to get hacked and steps to take if you feel your account has been compromised.

Charles shredding paper

About Charles

Charles Koh is a lifestyle content creator and media consultant based out of Seattle Washington. He founded a Seattle Food & Lifestyle Publication and Media Group called EatSeattle focusing on restaurant news, travel, and reviews. You can find him taking photos for Instagram while enjoying a nice glass of Washington wine and sushi