National Senior Fraud Awareness Day 2019

by Bob Burke, BankWest Fraud Risk Manager

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Today is National Senior Fraud Awareness Day, an ideal time to share updates on prevalent scams that affect our customers. Even in South Dakota and the Midwest, we are not immune to fraudsters.

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and up have experienced some form of elder abuse. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. This abuse is not limited to just financial abuse, but is also perpetrated in other forms such as medical, physical or emotional abuse. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by being familiar with scams that are most prevalent in our area.

Telephone Scams
Whether it be impersonating the IRS, Social Security Administration, or FBI, phone scammers attempt to get your personal information to gain access to your bank accounts or credit cards. If you receive a call from one of these entities, hang up. These entities rarely contact people by phone and generally make requests for information through written correspondence.

Telephone Number Spoofing
In conjunction with the phone scams, a more recent scheme includes fraudsters spoofing telephone numbers.  This means your caller ID may show the potential fraudster is calling from a governmental entity, an old friend, medical facility or even your local financial institution. However, they are using these legitimate parties phone numbers to mask where they are actually calling from. If the person on the other end of the line asks for your personal information, account information, seems like they are in a hurry, acts pushy, or threatens consequences if no immediate action is taken, it is most likely a scam and you should hang up. It is always best to be overly cautious. If you think the call may be legitimate, you can look up the phone number for the organization contacting you and call them back to inquire about the request.

The Grandchild Scam
Under this scheme someone pretending to be your “grandchild” will call and state they have been involved in an accident or are in legal trouble and need money immediately. If you receive one of these calls, don’t act right away. These fraudsters can sound very legitimate, will be pushy and will attempt to play upon your emotions.  Hang up the phone and call your grandchild or the child’s parents to verify the situation. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the estimated median loss per “Grandchild Scam” case is $9,000.

Prize, Loan & Lottery Scams
If you have been contacted about a loan or prize it is probably a scam. This scheme usually involves contact either by mail or telephone informing you that you have won a prize of some sort, but you must pay a fee to obtain the prize. Scammers send a fake check to you to deposit, knowing it will take time for the bank to reject the check. Meanwhile, you have sent the scammer money through wire transfer for fees or taxes on the prize. By the time you learn that their check is fraudulent and the funds do not clear the bank, you will be out those funds you sent away.

When it comes your financial well being, there should be no hasty decisions. Here are some additional tips for avoiding frauds and scams.

  • Assume any offer that seems too good to be true is fraudulent.
  • Never send a cashier’s check or gift cards in response to an offer before verifying the request with a trusted financial advisor.
  • Do not share access codes, passwords or account numbers unless you are 100 percent certain who you are talking to, and even then, use caution.
  • Beware of incoming email or text messages that ask you to click on a link. These may install malware on your device allowing thieves to gain access to your information.
  • Always be suspicious of email, phone or text requests asking you to update or verify personal information.

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