The holiday season is upon us, and while it’s a time for joy and cheer with families and friends, it’s also, sadly, a time for seniors to fall victim to scams. It’s a busy time of year for everyone, with activities like shopping, baking, wrapping gifts and traveling filling schedules. And, you can be certain that con artists and scammers will also be busy, trying to take advantage of seniors’ hectic lives and big hearts.
How to Avoid Scams Targeting Seniors over the Holidays
Scams targeting seniors are an unfortunate, but common, occurrence. Seniors who are lonely or suffer from memory issues tend to be more trusting than they should be, and scammers are well aware of that fact. Plus, around the holidays seniors tend to be more charitable than other times of the year, making them even easier targets.
Here’s a list of a few common senior scams around the holidays, and how to avoid them:
The “grandparent scam.” This is one of the most common scams on the elderly that occurs during the holidays. It begins with a phone call, sometimes in the middle of the night, with the person on the other line claiming to be a friend or loved one- often pretending to be a grandchild- who is in distress of some sort. The scammer will request money to be wired electronically, and once it is sent, it is gone forever.
These types of desperate calls often catch seniors off guard. But, you can avoid this type of scam by resisting the urge to act quickly. Instead, get a phone number the caller can be reached at, and then contact other family members first to see if anyone has any further information. Plus, keep in mind that a loved one probably would not ask for money to be wired electronically.
Fake charities. Another very popular senior scam around the holidays takes advantage of seniors’ charitable desires to give back to those less fortunate. Scammers may design fake charities, or say they are from a certain established organization, and call seniors to request donations.
Avoid giving to charities that don’t exist by always researching the supposed charity before pledging any hard-earned cash. You can contact organizations like the Better Business Bureau to help verify whether the charity is legit. Never give any money over the phone until you know more about the organization.
Fraudulent gift cards. During the busy holiday season, scammers will visit stores and take down information on the back of gift cards. Then, they can contact the business to find out if the card has been activated, and if so, can use up all the funds on the card before you’ve made your first purchase with it yourself.
Make sure you purchase gift cards from a reputable store, and inspect them for any tampering. You can also consider buying gift cards online to further minimize any risks.
Throughout the holiday season, it’s important to be cautious when it comes to your wallet. Also, remember to never give out personal information over the phone, and check the credentials or ask for references from anyone you might find suspicious.