In the “good ‘ol days,” getting scammed wasn’t quite what it is today. In a time when much of our personal information—name, address, bank account number, social security number—can be found online, it’s important to know expect and be aware of financial scammers.
Everyone is a potential target, but elderly people are often considered “easier” targets than some, since that generation didn’t grow up with technology like people in their 20s and 30s did. Not understanding what is normal and acceptable versus what is not can lead to devastating situations of identity theft.
To avoid getting scammed, you should constantly be on the lookout for suspicious situations like the following:
Phishing e-mails. It’s not uncommon to get an e-mail from what may appear to be your banker or someone else with access to important personal information. These e-mails often ask you to provide login information, bank account numbers, or other sensitive information, banking on the hope that you won’t notice they’re not actually who they say you are.
“Pre-approved” loans. This one is especially hard-hitting, since it often targets those who have poor credit anyway. After being asked to complete a credit application (that of course asks for all kinds of information), consumers are told they will just need to wait for a processing fee to come out before the loan is granted. Of course, the fee comes out but the loan is never received.
Imitation anti-virus programs. One of the most common scams ironically offers consumers protection from viruses… if they just download the program. Though the pop-up windows may look legitimate, they’re not—clicking on them will often result in releasing malicious software or viruses onto your computer, an issue that can be incredibly difficult to fix. Another rendition of this could be in the form of a phone call from a “representative” of some well-known computer company that says there is a problem with your computer. This will never, ever be true.
Social media scammers. Because of the nature of social media, viruses can be spread throughout social media networks incredibly fast. It can be in the form of a message, which when clicked unleashes a virus that will begin posting malicious virus links from that person’s profile. “Special Offers” and contests are also a common route for scammers, who offer a great deal but force you to put in your personal information and allow access to your account before sending it (which it usually doesn’t).
Randy Tye is a journalist specializing in topics about fraud, finance, and financial mistakes. She lives in Boston, and works as a system admin for a small investment firm.