Avoiding Scams and Misinformation
As we enter into tax season, the time is high for seniors to be targeted with identity theft scams. That, coupled with the massive uptick in misinformation and schemes spread through social media by bad actors, means it’s never a better time to arm yourself with information to keep yourself safe. Thanks to the internet, everyone is subjected almost daily to falsified stories from questionable sources, ads for products that certainly won’t work, and outright lies intending to trick you into giving up your critical financial and personal information. For seniors who might not have the technological know-how and internet savviness to separate the wheat from the chaff, this can be a frightening and potentially harmful experience.
- Secure personal information: Important documents, like social security cards, should never be carried on one’s person. Consider investing in a secure documents container, like a desktop safe or strongbox, to store them. Mail from the bank or other financial institutions can also contain sensitive information. Shredding them before discarding, or, if possible, enrolling in paperless statements you receive through email, is a good practice.
- Consider the source: Many grifters and malefactors use the anonymity of the internet to present misleading or outright false information in an official-looking format. Just because a purported news article looks credible, doesn’t mean that it is. Check to see if the information is being posted on a trusted and accredited news organization or outlet. Any reputable news site will list the primary sources they receive their information from, and if you’re still uncertain, try and find the article or information being presented on another news site that you trust.
- Sham products: The fear and uncertainty thrust upon us by the Covid-19 virus has emboldened many scam artists and snake-oil salesmen. There are countless products available online, all touting their efficacy in preventing or curing the disease. From devices and gadgets that claim to block the transmission of the virus, or kill the germs on contact, to supplements, tonics, potions or pills that will be, at best, ineffective, and at worst, harmful, the ads roll in daily. A good rule of thumb is that if something sounds too good to be true, it definitely is. Sources like the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, or any other health and medical authority will tell you what the best, medically agreed-upon, products and practices to avoid infection will be. If it’s not on that list, it’s not a real product.
- Scam calls and emails: Oftentimes, scammers will call or email a person, claiming to be an official representative of their bank or financial institution, and then use an invented scenario as a pretext to press you into giving up your account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive data. These kinds of things are never information the companies should be asking you. While their tactics can be very frightening and pushy, the correct move is to disconnect from the call or disregard the email, and then contact the institution directly with their customer service line. Then, when you know you’re speaking to an official representative, you can double-check the claims made by the unknown caller, and also make any necessary changes to secure your account.