Keeping Yourself and Your Family Safe from Scams

Many fraudsters target the elderly because they are trusting and because they usually have access to money. Here’s how to keep yourself off of their radar and how to recognize them when they do show up.

1. Acting immediately is never mandatory
If someone is selling you something, you should have a reasonable amount of time to go away and consider it before you actually purchase. If the pitch is that it is a limited time only and has to happen right away, give it a pass. Products that won’t stand up to a sober second thought are the only ones that resort to this kind of pitch.

2. Verify identities of callers with caller ID or Google
If you happen to be sitting in front of your computer when you answer the phone, Google the number first. If you don’t recognize it as a place that you do business with or a trusted friend or family member, let it go through to voice mail and screen the call.

3. Beware the “family member in distress” scam
You may have heard of this happening to a friend. A “family member” calls from a barely audible cell phone and claims they are in a foreign country and need money wired to them immediately. They will usually freak out if you try to hang up and call their parents and say that they can’t call other family for some reason. They will then demand that you wire money to them.

Even if you have family that regularly visits dangerous countries, don’t fall for this one. Hang up the phone and call their parents or spouse. If a situation actually exists, they’ll take it from there. This scam has been remarkably successful.

4. Scan Anti-Fraud websites regularly.
There are two websites that you should visit regularly to monitor what fraudsters are doing. These are PhoneBusters and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. PhoneBusters is a third-party consumer watchdog organization, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is the Government of Canada’s answer to the same problem.

5. Don’t sign up for certain things online
While it is completely safe to bank online, you’ll want to watch other online activities. Don’t sign up for contests that aren’t with recognized companies or brands, and don’t click on an attachment in an email if it looks suspicious.

There are also “phishing” scams in which fraudsters send an email to you claiming to need your password, account number, credit card number and other sensitive information. Your financial institution will never need this information because they already have it in their database. Only a scammer needs this kind of information.

Most of all, approach telephone solicitations and online surfing with a good dose of common sense. Coupled with the suggestions above, common sense will always ensure that you don’t fall prey to people with less integrity than you.