Don't get conned

Seniors must beware of scammers on the Internet

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  • <B>Beware of scammers:</B> In this file photo a 77-year-old woman looks at pictures of her grandchildren on an Apple Inc. iPad tablet computer. More and more seniors are getting online, which unfortunately sometimes makes them the target of Internet scams.<B></B>

    Beware of scammers: In this file photo a 77-year-old woman looks at pictures of her grandchildren on an Apple Inc. iPad tablet computer. More and more seniors are getting online, which unfortunately sometimes makes them the target of Internet scams.


If you are a senior citizen you may have done everything to protect yourself including putting extra locks on the doors, shuttering the windows, and buying one of those gadgets that alert emergency services if you have a fall.

Unfortunately, danger could be lurking in a much more innocuous place - your home computer.

Claudette Fleming of Age Concern said Bermuda seniors are just as vulnerable to Internet fraud as their American counterparts.

“Internet fraud is probably more common with our seniors than other types of scams such as lottery scams,” she said. “This is probably because they aren't interacting as much on the computer as younger people, so they are not used to being computer savvy. A few months ago we had an issue with an e-mail going around claiming to be from a bank. The e-mail asked for bank pin numbers and credit card information.”

Senior citizens are going online in record numbers, often helped along by community computer courses. There is a saying, ‘I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night'. Unfortunately, when it comes to many senior citizens and the Internet, it often might as well have been last night. Senior citizens can be easy targets for fraud. They are attractive to con artists because they often have a nest egg. They also sometimes have poor memories which makes it hard for them to report the details of the crime.

Many of these fraudsters are located outside the United States which makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track them down. Internet scams most commonly originate from the Ukraine, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Egypt, Romania, Turkey, Russia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Israel and Nigeria.

A new study recently released by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation in the United States found there are certain behaviours that make senior citizens particularly vulnerable to being scammed. The study found that millions of older Americans are defrauded by scammers, but only a quarter report the crime. The study found that certain behaviours increased the older person's risk of being defrauded. These behaviours included opening and reading all junk mail and e-mails, attending free lunch seminars, entering draws to win a free prize and inviting salespeople into the home.

Local banks have stated time and again that they would never ask for banking details through an e-mail. Some scammer e-mails include links to websites that look exactly like the bank's website and even include the bank's logo. Remember that websites are easy to create.

“Don't respond to e-mails claiming to be from your bank,” said Mrs Fleming. “If you aren't sure, telephone the bank and ask.”

And have you ever had one of these e-mails or letters? It goes something like: The King of Pogoland has just been murdered. His daughter wants to rush $10 million out of the country, and she needs your credit card information and bank account details to do it. Of course, she'll share the proceeds with you. Oh yeah, she has cancer, is a Christian and has 13 little children to feed. They all have childhood cancer also. She's pretty cute too, apparently.

There's a simple way to sum this scam up, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never respond to e-mails or letters like this one.

The AARP study found that educated people were just as likely to fall for scams as uneducated people, but what they fell for differed. Married, well-educated, high-earning older men were more likely to be victims of investment fraud, while single older men and women with lower incomes and education levels tended to fall prey to lottery scams.

Victims of drug scams and identity thefts were more likely to be single, lower earning, less-educated women.

Doug Shadel, co-author of the study, said the amount of the fraud can be considerable, depending on the type of scam. In investment fraud cases victims can lose thousands of dollars.

Often, senior citizens are too embarrassed to report the fraud to police, and sometimes they simply don't know who to report the crime to.

Mr Shadel and his team advised people to be proactive to avoid scams. They suggested people check references and wait 24 hours before making a decision to buy something. For tricky or difficult situations a refusal script could be useful against the persuasive tactics of a con artist.

“Every con man I have interviewed said his central goal is to get people into a heightened emotional state so they make a bad decision. We say never make a buying decision at the time of the sales pitch. Always wait at least 24 hours to cool down,” Mr Shadel said.

If you suspect that someone is trying to defraud you, or you have been defrauded contact the police fraud unit on 295-0011.

Some tips from the FBI to avoid being scammed:

lShred credit card receipts and old bank statements.

lClose unused credit card or bank accounts.

llDon't give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.

lNever respond to an offer you don't understand.

lTalk over investments with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.

lRequire all plans and purchases to be in writing.

lDon't pay in advance for services.

Useful website: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/april/seniofraud_041008.

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Published May 27, 2011 at 6:00 am (Updated May 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm)

Don't get conned

Seniors must beware of scammers on the Internet

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