It seems that each day there are shocking news stories about everyday citizens experiencing fraud in one way or another. The elderly, unfortunately, are especially vulnerable to predators.
Donna Moses, lead member victim advocate in Suncoast Credit Union’s Risk Management Department for nearly 40 years, said, “Technology makes it easier for scammers to commit fraud through channels such as text messages and emails. You have to remain on alert. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.”
Moses added, “Elderly people are often trusting, so they can be easy to convince. Since they have nest eggs, and access to credit to obtain funds, scammers are more likely to target them.”
Moses suggested that there are three things you should never do:
• Never send or receive money from someone you have never met in person, even if you ‘met’ them online.
• Do not give anyone access to your computer, credit cards or your financial institution’s online banking information, especially over the phone or through text.
• Never let someone convince you to do something you normally would not do, like mail or receive cash.
Moreover, according to Moses, three things you can do to be safe are:
• If you did not initiate a phone call, hang up. Do not provide them with information.
• Do not open or click on attachments, links or hyperlinked text in the body of a message in unexpected emails.
• If you feel threatened, talk to a trusted family member, law enforcement or your financial institution.
If you have been compromised in some way, you should notify your bank, lock cards online and call your credit card company.
In her 40 years on the job, Moses has seen a lot. One example of something that many are unfamiliar with is called ‘money mule.’
Moses explained, “According to the FBI, it is when criminals trick people into sending and receiving funds to help unknowingly launder money.”
Moses added, “Money mule scams are especially dangerous because participating in them is illegal and punishable even if you are unaware. Money mule scams can damage your credit, and it is possible that you could be responsible for paying back the victim.”
For residents of Florida, the elderly are often victims of fraud when their homes are damaged by storms.
Moses recommended, “Do your homework and research companies before doing business with them.”
Above all else, be vigilant and work with financial institutions that offer fraud protection.