Blue suit. White shirt. Yellow tie.
Arthur was dressed up and ready to collect a grand prize from the sweepstakes company soon to arrive at his doorstep. The prize, however, turned out to be a Trojan horse. The 85-year-old was victimized by sophisticated scammers who left him with just an expensive loan for a bed he did not need.
His experience, which started with a phone call, is all too common. Fraud costs senior citizens billions of dollars every year, and the majority of scams start that same way. Despite our increasingly digital world, the phone call reigns supreme – for now.
We asked several U.S. Bank experts how you can stay a step ahead today, and in the future as fraud moves digital.
1. Let it go to voicemail
Your phone is the new doorbell. Don’t pick up unless you know who is calling. If you pick up and the caller asks if you have a moment to talk about your account with a particular bank, you’d be giving them valuable information just by confirming or implying whether you have such an account.
The same rule applies to your digital interactions. Don’t open unfamiliar emails.
2. Use technology more smartly than the fraudsters
Technology can enable a family to help each other, said U.S. Bank Chief Digital Officer Dominic Venturo. For example, your bank likely offers real-time text or email alerts about transactions in your account.
“For one of our family member’s accounts, others receive alerts on transactions over a certain dollar amount,” Venturo said. “We’re not signatories on their account, but we’re able to say ‘Hey, did you do that transaction?’”
3. Speak up before forking over
You do a service to others by speaking up, and you have the ability to do so right at your fingertips. Apps like Nextdoor or Facebook can help you educate your neighborhood or social network about trending scams.
People can be an important intermediary, said U.S. Bank District Manager Millie Mia. “Ask a banker about any transactions you’re unsure about, especially if someone is asking you to send money via wire transfer.”
4. Practice good computer hygiene
Software companies provide regular updates that are designed to provide added security against newly emerging cyber threats and viruses.
Practicing good computer hygiene, such as updating device software, prevents the vast majority of cyber-attacks. Do the same with you smartphone and other devices.
5. Know the latest scams
Grandma, it’s me… or, is it? One of the most common scams lately has centered on fraudsters pretending to be a grandchild in trouble, urgently requesting money for jail bond or even ransom. “This isn’t just financial abuse,” said Mia. “It’s emotional abuse.”
Similar imposter scams are popping up online. Be wary of those posing as tech support representatives and government officials. And with each of our digital footprints, it’s never been so easy to be an imposter.
Although often targeted for fraud, seniors are not alone and not even necessarily the most vulnerable. The Federal Trade Commission found, for example, that last year those in their 20s lost money to scams at a higher rate than those in their 70s. Even the most tech-savvy are targeted.
Read about one banker who is on a personal mission to prevent elder fraud to help others avoid what his father and family have gone through.