The holidays are supposed to be a time of goodwill and cheer – and for most of us they are. Unfortunately, this time of year is also when scam artists start trolling for victims. Anyone can fall victim to a talented fraudster; however, the elderly are at a heightened risk of being victimized for several reasons. Not only do they tend to have more disposable income, but they are also typically more trusting and less technologically adept, making them ideal targets for scammers. To help you avoid becoming a victim, a Nashua area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices explains several common holiday scams.
‘Tis the Season…to Pull Off Holiday Scams?
To avoid falling victim to a scam artists this holiday season, it may help to familiarize yourself with some of their most common scams, such as:
- Bogus Charities – scam artists have been using the fake charity scam for as long as charities have exited; however, with the advent of the internet scam artists have found new ways to solicit money for their fake causes. The holidays are particularly lucrative for this scam because people are in the giving spirit. Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe are legitimately used to help raise money for people in need, but they can also be used to solicit money for less than needy causes. To prevent falling victim to this scam, never give money to crowdfunding sites unless you personally know the person running the funding campaign. In addition, always vet a charity by checking with organizations such as Charity Watch or Charity Navigator before deciding to donate.
- Gift Card Sale Scam – when you don’t know what to buy someone, or you waited until the very last minute, what do you get them? A gift card of course. So every holiday season, we all seem to get at least one gift card we will never use. Consequently, selling unwanted gift cards online has become big business. Scammers, however, will ask you to “verify the balance” on a three-way call. What they are really doing is recording the sound of your keystrokes so they can figure out your login information for the card. With that, they can use the card online without paying a penny for it. To prevent falling for this scam, never agree to a phone call with a buyer. In fact, the best way to sell unwanted gift cards is to go through legitimate gift card sites such as Gift Card Granny or Raise.
- Phony Order Notifications – during the holidays you probably receive a lot of packages in the mail. In this scam, a victim receives what appears to be a legitimate notification in the mailbox or via email indicating that a delivery attempt was made. The victim is instructed to call a number at which time the victim is asked to provide a credit card number or social security number in order to verify the delivery. That information is then stolen and used to commit identity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, do some research before you pick up the phone and call. All major delivery services (USPS, FedEx, UPS) have websites that allow you to track a package. If the tracking number provided on the “notice” doesn’t work, it’s probably bogus. If you are still unsure, call the number listed on the official website instead of the one on the notice you received.
- Copycat Websites – copycat or phony websites are fairly easy to create for the tech savvy – and you can bet that most scam artists in the 21st century are tech savvy. In this scam, an unsuspecting victim clicks on an advertisement or a link in an article, thinking they are being taken to a legitimate website, only to end up on a copycat site. Many of these copycat sites look legitimate, causing shoppers to place orders. The shopper either never receives the merchandise or receives cheap knock-offs of what they thought they ordered. To avoid this scam, pay very close attention to both the URL and the website itself. Look for misspelled words or other errors on a website. Often, the site just feels “off.” Pay attention that feeling. Also look for extra words in the URL, such as “Amazonshopping.com.” If you have any doubt, back out and type the address to the site directly into your browser.
Contact a Nashua Area Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have questions or concerns about elder law issues or holiday scams, contact a Nashua area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 to schedule an appointment.
What is financial exploitation of the elderly?
Financial exploitation is a form of elder abuse. It takes many forms, including outright theft, using assets without permission, over-charging for services.
What can I do to keep my elderly parents safe from scammers year around?
- Talk to them about scams and how they often target the elderly.
- Show them how to set the privacy setting on electronic devices.
- Be vigilant about vetting caregivers and watching for signs that someone is trying to victimize your parent.
What should I do if I believe a loved one is the victim of elder abuse?
- If possible, talk to your loved one to try and confirm your suspicions.
- File a police report immediately.
- Talk to a supervisor or administrator if the perpetrator is a paid caregiver.
- Consult with an elder law attorney about your legal options.