A new group of con artists, nicknamed ‘granny scammers,’ has found another way to use the Internet to scam seniors out of money. The con artists are posing as family members or loved ones in need, and preying on unsuspecting elderly victims. Though financial elder abuse scams are not new, the granny scammers are using a new way to bilk unsuspecting seniors out of money.
Granny Scammers and the Internet
While many seniors are not nearly as familiar with the Internet and social media as younger people, the granny scammers are nevertheless using the Internet to run their scam and take money from unsuspecting elderly people. Here is how the scam works.
First, the con artist looks through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, searching for personal details about people. These details include, for example, the names of elderly relatives, personal details such as when and where people are going on vacation, and other information they can use.
Next, with the information in hand, the con artists call seniors posing as a relative. They pretend they’re in trouble and ask the elderly person to send money immediately. The seniors, who may not have the best hearing, can’t often tell that their loved one is being impersonated, and can be persuaded to send the money because the caller knows important personal details.
Financial Elder Abuse a Large, and Growing, Problem
The financial toll that cons like the granny scammers use to victimize seniors and the elderly is substantial. According to the National Council on the Aging, financial elder abuse robs seniors of about $2.9 million per year, most of which goes unreported. Many seniors feel ashamed or embarrassed when they learn that they have been conned out of their money, and relatively few report the crimes to authorities or even family members.
Further, with the ranks of senior citizens growing by 10,000 per day as baby boomers reach retirement age, both the number of people who are victimized and the amount of money stolen increases almost daily.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
While there’s almost no way to completely protect yourself from people who might try to take your money, there are precautions that can help you ensure that you, or your loved ones, won’t be victimized by granny scammers or other financial elder abusers.
First, you and your loved ones can limit the kinds of information and personal details you post online. While you don’t need to stay away from social media, you should be careful about what kind of information you post, and when you post it. For example, if you’re going on vacation, you can post your photos after you return instead of while you are away.
Second, you and your loved ones can agree on a secret word or phrase that you can use over the phone. If someone contacts you needing help, they can use the word or phrase to prove it is truly them.
Third, if you receive a call from someone trying to scam you, contact your local police department directly.