It’s evident that fraud targeting the elderly is becoming more prevalent. To make matters worse, elder crime is severely under-reported due to several reasons, including embarrassment and fear.
Through a variety of tactics, fraudsters (criminals) convince their targets that something is wrong with their situation. They persuade them there’s a problem with their computer system, security, credit card, identity or that they were “hacked” or “cheated” at their bank.
The victim is “asked” to assist in fixing one of these problems. They're given a code or number or something else official looking to validate the malicious person’s authority. Sometimes, the criminals ask for access to the victim’s computer so they can “help.” Often they try to prey on the vulnerable person's desire to mitigate the fictitious issue. They are social engineers who know that most people want to be helpful!
They often spoof websites or call centers. During phone calls, the victims are instructed not to tell anyone, not even someone at the bank because they may be part of the problem. They’re warned not to tell family because they may get sucked in as well. “Keep this between us,” they say. The victim is often given an 800 number to call. Calls to these numbers are answered professionally, so the victim feels more comfortable.
Sometimes the deceitful parties indicate that a payment is late, and feign representation of a power company, telephone company, or credit card company. They say that service will be cut off and that a cashier’s check or or other form of quick payment must be made to keep an account active.
These bad actors are cunning and extremely experienced in defrauding others. They have done this hundreds or thousands of times. If they’ve reached a person who’s unaware of their tricks, the criminal has the distinct advantage.
It all comes down to a play to nudge the victim to transfer money or give the criminal access to their systems so that they can make the transfer. Often, a bank fraud victim is told that the money will be put back in their account in a couple days and not to worry. The criminals say they'll will be in contact that evening or the next day. They thank the victim for their assistance!
Most institutions should have strong controls around the elderly wiring funds out of their accounts to a third party, but unfortunately, we’ve found the banks have few controls and, oftentimes, do not show a desire to improve their processes. Their position is that, once the money is gone, it’s gone and it’s the victim’s fault for sending the funds or falling into a trap of giving access to their account. Once a cashier’s check is cashed, it is often too late to get it back!
Stronger financial institutions will require full explanations regarding why the money is needed and will work tirelessly to ensure that the money movement is appropriate.
Yet, elderly folks dohave the power to be aware and make good decisions when contacted by a fraudulent person.
Be sure to review these Rules of Thumb to protect your safety or the safety of someone you love:
- Your bank has access to ALL of your information; they do not need your help getting access to anything
- Your bank does not need your help keeping your account safe
- Never wire money if you can avoid it – especially to a person or company you do not know
- Institutions will never ask you for your passwords – so never provide them
- When someone calls and says they are from an institution, hang up and call the 800 number you can get online and ask for the name of the person that called you. If the fraudster pushes back and says something like they are not listed in the company directory or they are “security” and unlisted, you know that they are likely part of a fraud. This is a huge red flag!
- If all else fails, call a trusted person. Call your financial advisor, CPA, or attorney to get some advice before you pull the trigger
- Once you wire the money, the money is almost always gone! You will likely never see that hard-earned money ever again!
- Never get a cashier’s check or bank check and send it to anyone! If someone asks you for them, it is extremely likely they are fraudulent. Most of the time these types of transactions are very suspect
- Your local police have no authority nor jurisdiction usually and are generally of very little help
- Your best protection is to hang up and ignore the fraudster – they will generally leave you alone and try the next person