‘Tis the Season for… Holiday Scams

Unfortunately, the time of year that is meant for spreading good cheer and wishing goodwill, is also the season of scammers. During the holiday season, scammers are working at full speed, and they target the most vulnerable, the aging population.

A lot of people question, “How do they even get my parent’s telephone number?”. The answer is that telemarketers purchase phone numbers from third-party data providers who have gotten your name and phone in a variety of different ways. These may include voter lists, if your parents ever donated to a charity, applied for a credit card, if their phone number is on their cheques, or, if they ever called a company or 800# that has caller id… and to be clear, they all have caller id.

So, what are these holiday scams that target the aging population? A common one is the fake charity scam or fake disaster relief scam. Its sole purpose is to tug so hard at the heartstrings that it opens the victim’s wallet. Not only are these scammers persistent but they are also very convincing.

Another scam is the so-called Grandchild Scam. This is a particularly heinous scam because it frightens and convinces the senior to think that their grandchild is in trouble: they need money for school, or their car broke down or even that they have been incarcerated. Pressure is applied to send money or even send money via gift cards. The IRS scam uses another scare tactic. This one is not only scary for seniors, but the calls are relentless. Scammers pose as IRS agents and will even transfer the victim to their “supervisor” to make the call be even more convincing. How to tell your parents that it is not the IRS calling? The IRS does not make any phone calls. If your parents are delinquent in their income taxes, the IRS will let them know the good old fashion way, by mail.

The latest scam is the fake Amazon representative calling to say that there has been unusual activity on an Amazon Prime account. Amazon would conduct all its business through the Amazon account. Much like the IRS, Amazon does not initiate anything via phone call. Everything is done through the account.

As more people are becoming savvy about these telephone tactics, scammers have changed their tactics, as well. Scammers are now actually texting cell phones saying you won a gift card or your package can’t be delivered.

Scammers also email as if they work for the company. The logos and links look so incredibly realistic.

Here are some tips to safeguard your loved one:

  • Get caller id for a landline. If they don’t recognize the number, don’t answer it, just let it go to voice mail or to the answering machine.
  • If they do answer the phone, tell them not to say ‘hello.” Scam callers usually are activated when a voice comes on.
  • Tell your loved one never to confirm any information such as name or number.
  • Also, never, ever say “yes” to anything. This can be manipulated to appear that permission was given. Calls are usually recorded.
  • If your aging loved one receives a suspicious text or an email, advise them not to click on any links and do not call any numbers that are provided. Those links just go to the scammer and now they have confirmed that the number is active.
  • If there is any question or concern that perhaps the call or email may be legitimate, a simple Google search will provide you with a contact number to call customer service. Never use the number that the scammer provides to you, because it will simply just go back to them.

The best advice is to enroll their phone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry List. It only takes a few minutes and you can do this by visiting: www.donotcall.gov. If you think your aging loved one has been a victim of a fraudulent scam, please contact your local police department, district attorney’s office and the Federal Trade Commission for further help and to open a case.