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Avoiding Senior Scams

Advice for avoiding scams was once very simple. Yesterday’s seniors had to look out mostly for phone or door-to-door scam artists. But today’s senior is exposed on many, many fronts and faces a far more sophisticated breed of scam artist.

The National Council on Aging has identified 10 top senior-targeted scams. That article is a must-read to get details on specific scams. Here on The Retirement Institute, we’re not going to focus on specific scams but on ways to avoid being scammed in general.

Avoiding Online Scams

Here are several steps you can take to make yourself less exposed and more protected online:

  • Block all pop-up ads. Pop-up ads are the door-to-door salesmen of this century. Avoid them like the plague.

  • Use virus protection software. Keep the software updated and be sure to invest some time in learning how to best use it.

  • Never give personal information out via email. No reputable company is going to ask you to give your date of birth, Social Security number or other sensitive data via email. Instead, call them using a phone number you get through the company’s website or paper materials.

  • Be mindful of impersonation. A great scam these days is to create a fraudulent social media account for a person and then contact his or her friends and family asking them to wire money. If you receive a request for money from a friend or relative on Facebook or by email, before you send anything, talk to this individual over the phone and verify that they’re actually making the request.

  • Always use a different password for every bank, credit card and retail website. This makes it much harder to spread fraud across multiple sites.

Avoiding Telemarketing Scams

The Internet may be king, but that doesn’t mean the good, old-fashioned phone is dead. Here are some tips to avoid telemarketing scams:

  • Add your number to the Do Not Call registry: 1-888-382-1222.

  • Never buy anything during a telemarketing call. Instead, if an offer sounds good, get the company information and call them to make the purchase directly.

  • Don’t respond to high-pressure sales tactics. People will try to scam you by pressuring you to take advantage of a great, limited-time offer. Don’t fall for it.

  • Never give personal data to someone who calls you. If a bank or company calls you and asks you to give or confirm your personal information, let them know that you’re not comfortable doing so and will call them back. Then, don’t use any phone number they give you—as that could be part of the scam. Instead, dig out your statements or do some online research and find the company’s number yourself.

Avoiding Mail Scams

You’ve won a contest! Except, no, you’ve just gotten scammed by someone trying to get your personal details by telling you that you won a contest. Yes, mail fraud is still big business—here are some tips to make sure you’re not caught up in it:

  • Always read the fine print of any offer or prize notification you receive. This is where you’ll usually find the unsavory details and conditions.

  • If you actually won something, you shouldn’t be expected to give out your credit card info or pay money to receive the prize.

  • Always contact Medicare to find out whether a discount drug card is valid before accepting or using it.

  • Never sign a blank form and return it to a company or individual.

If you stay strong, don’t give into pressure and do your due diligence, you’ll become a much less attractive target for scam artists. It’s also a good idea to have a friend or family member who can help you go through offers and requests you receive to help you weed out the deals from the scams.

About Dennis M. Postema

Dennis M. Postema, RFC, is a successful entrepreneur, best-selling author, coach, speaker and registered financial consultant. He is the founder of MotivationandSuccess.com, StoriesofPerseverance.org, FinancingYourLife.com and TheRetirementInstitute.org.

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