New communication gadgets and social media platforms like smart phones, Facebook, Skype and Twitter offer seniors new and relatively simple ways to keep in touch with friends and family. However, awareness of techno-related scams is crucial for seniors, as these unseen scammers often target the elderly. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota outlines some of the most common scams that target elderly technology users.
'Friends in distress'
You may receive an urgent Facebook message or email from a "friend" who claims to be stranded in a foreign country, robbed of all of his/her money and in need of wired funds to return home. What recipients of these messages often don't realize until it's too late is that their friend's account has been hacked and the message was sent by a scammer. If you do wire funds, the money will likely end up in the hands of the scam artist, not your actual friend.
In this scam, you receive a Facebook message or Twitter Tweet with a luring message, such as "You look funny in this video," with a link to an outside web page. Clicking on the link will bring you to a page that asks you to update your Flash player in order to view the video. Agreeing to install the update actually installs a virus on your computer. Never provide personal or financial information to unknown parties and do not click on any embedded links in unsolicited text messages.
This recurring scam has made its way from your post mailbox to your email inbox. You receive an email claiming that you have won millions of dollars or a luxury prize in a in a lottery. All you have to do is provide your bank account information and the funds will be deposited at once! Or you may be asked to wire money to cover taxes or transfer fees. The victim wires the money and of course the big prize never arrives. Remember, foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States and in no instance should you send money to receive a prize.
More and more consumers are contacting the BBB to report cell phone text messages that appear to be from their banks or other financial institutions. These messages generally claim that credit cards or accounts have been frozen, and that the victim must call a toll-free number to update and confirm sensitive information. This opens the door to identity theft or fraud. Never provide personal or financial information to unknown parties and do not click on any embedded links in unsolicited emails or text messages; contact your financial institution directly. Also, don't rely on your caller ID. Scammers can use technology, too; they can make it appear that their texts or calls are coming from legitimate financial intuitions.
Contact your bank or financial institution directly if you have concerns.
For more information, visit (www.bbb.org).
Gary Johnson is the Senior Outreach Program Manager for the Better Business Bureau of North Dakota and Minnesota.