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LTE: Scammers targeting seniors' savings

Never give out personally identifiable information

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Imagine a blaring siren or flashing emergency lights. We want everyone to realize that we are all in constant danger of falling victim to financial scams coming at us from all directions. Especially susceptible is our senior population. Although we’ve all become accustomed to receiving advertisements on TV or on a tech device like a computer, smartphone, tablet, or similar device, we now have a more malicious enemy, thieves who take advantage of our trust and use deception, coercion, and manipulation to pry our hard earned finances from us.

At the Senior Center Tech Connect (SCTC) volunteer group, we are fielding an unprecedented increase in the number of seniors who have been subject to one or more scams perpetrated by criminals. Some have contacted us before falling victim, but sadly, others contact us after they have lost a large portion of their savings. This is difficult for those of us who daily try to assist folks in managing their new phone or computer or fix an existing device. We often seem to be fighting a losing battle against very persistent and technologically-advanced criminals.

Let us give you a common example. You are sitting at your computer and perusing various news stories and one catches your attention. You click on the story and start reading and all of a sudden, your screen turns bright red and an ominous message appears about your computer being infected with a virus and you need to call a toll free number to Microsoft and do not turn off your computer. The screen is locked and you can’t do anything. You are intimidated by the tech jargon on the screen and so thinking you really need to get this fixed, you call the number. A polite voice answers “Microsoft technical support, how can I help you?” Then a series of seemingly helpful steps, you allow him to remotely access your computer. He may say he can fix your computer for like $200. But then he’ll likely insist that you give him your bank account information so he can show you how to transfer that money to him. This goes on until the most gullible people eventually allow the scammer to access your bank account and strip you of all your funds.

There are many flavors of this scam, but their goal is to extract as much money from us as possible. The tactics are relentless, and they will repeatedly call you even if you suspect a scam. Sometimes they are so vindictive that they will destroy all the files on your computer until you pay them.

We have a few things for everybody to remember as we face this evil:

  • Never call a number on your screen or allow anyone to remote into your device. Call our group or someone at a business you trust.
  • Never give out personally identifiable information (PII) to anyone (bank accounts, social security number, even birthdays or addresses)
  • Assume that anyone who contacts you by email or phone may not be who they say they are. Do not be afraid not to answer a phone call if you don’t know who is calling.
  • Emails and websites often have links urging us to click on them. These links may take you to something you are not expecting.
  • Delete all emails from unsolicited senders. It is best not to even open the email if you don’t know who it is from.
  • Never open an attachment on an unsolicited email.

Please be aware that there are new scams appearing all the time. We try to keep up with them so we can assist you, Since seniors tend to be targeted because they tend to be more intimidated by technology and often have available financial resources, others are being targeted as well.

Please be aware and err on the side of safety. If a call or email is important enough, they’ll leave a message or voicemail.

Watch for future SCTC events online and in person on our website or from the Senior Center GO catalog.

Bruce Armstrong

Sarah Jane Snyder

Daryl Goodman

Volunteers with SCTC