Team 12 Investigates: Tips to avoid financial scams targeting the elderly
Suffolk County police are investigating a scam that they say cost two women in their 70s nearly $500,000 - and there could be more victims.
Recognizing common signs of a scam could help you avoid one.
Senior citizens are often the targets of these scams because they usually have assets, regular income and may be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, health problems or bereavement.
Bankers are often the first to recognize signs of fraud or financial scams. They are trained to ask customers pointed questions when they suspect a case of elder financial abuse.
A change in banking patterns is one of the biggest red flags of a money scam. Bank tellers may ask specific questions when a customer suddenly makes a large cash withdrawal or wire transfer.
Unlike large check deposits, banks cannot put a hold on cash transactions. However, they can talk with customers to help them avoid becoming a victim.
“Do you know who you’re sending this money to? Did someone ask you to lie to send this money? Are you feeling anxious right now? Those are some great questions to get the conversation started,” said Amy Nofziger, a spokesperson for AARP.
To protect yourself, the Federal Trade Commission recommends resisting the pressure to act immediately.
Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Also, experts say it’s important to know how scammers tell you to pay. (https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-avoid-scam)
“Usually, the money is requested in a nontraditional form of payment, such as cryptocurrency, directing you to an ATM or even prepaid gifts cards,” said Nofziger.
The FTC says never pay someone who insists that you can only pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, a payment app or a gift card, and never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
Also, experts say do not give out personal or financial information in response to a request that you were not expecting. If a person tells you they are with a specific company, look up the company’s number online instead of calling the one they gave you.
Whenever you are unsure about something, talk to someone you trust. Family, friends or neighbors may help you realize it’s a scam.
“Always get a second opinion and check on it first before you send any money,” Nofziger said.