At the local community center, I’m involved in the Lifetime Learning program and teach a class on how to organize and protect personal information so it can be easily found, or shared when needed. There are great discussions in these sessions and last week, one of the participants shared the recent article written by Michelle Singletary with The Washington Post titled Let’s Band Together to Stop Scammers.
Fraud affects everyone, but many of the scams are targeted specifically toward seniors. The one that surprised me was done by telephone and the individuals talked their target into giving them online access to their computer. They would say there were calling to update the software or trouble-shoot a problem identified with the machine and during the process access the hard drive and steal personal information stored on the computer. The typical result is immediate fraudulent use of credit card information stored on the computer.
My family went through a period of several years where we were concerned that our parents would be scammed. Not only did my Mom seem to misplace her purse weekly, but we had one instance where my Mom called my sister (who is a lawyer) at 2 a.m. in the morning worried about some home improvement contracts she signed. For the same work, my Mom had signed one contract for $800 and another for over $5,000. We assume my parents forgot they signed one contract and hired a second company to handle the repairs. When I arrived the next day, my Mom had forgotten the call and it took a while to uncover the two contracts. We were lucky she told one of us about it and we could intervene to help.
There are so many types of scams, but in general it seems that when in doubt, you should check it out. Never give information to someone over the telephone asking for personal information. AARP has a Fraud Watch Network that is free. You can enroll online and receive both electronic information as well as updates in the mail. The crooks are crafty and have made stealing our identity and money their full-time job. Forewarned.