In today’s electronics culture, just about everyone owns a cellphone, tablet, or laptop computer on which they spend a good deal of time on various social media platforms. For grandparents, their best (and sometimes only) opportunity to find out what is going on in a grandchild’s life is through that grandchild’s posts on social media. The problem with that is that it isn’t only the grandkids who might be surfing your social media posts if you are a senior. Scam artists and other predators who prey on older victims may also be scouring your posts for helpful information. The Vero Beach elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford discuss how to keep elderly loved ones safe in the age of social media.
How Social Media Puts Seniors at Risk
Social media didn’t become the preferred method of communicating until well into the 21st century. Consequently, anyone over about 40 did not grow up with social media. Instead, they had to learn how to navigate and use sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. That alone makes them vulnerable. Computer based scams that target the elderly are numerous and knew ones crop up every day. One of the most common of those scams is known as the “Granny Scam” because it preys on grandparents and their inherent desire and willingness to help a grandchild. In the Granny Scam, a perpetrator calls a senior and pretends to be the victim’s grandchild who is in trouble and needs a specific amount of money. The money might allegedly be to get out of jail, get a vehicle fixed, or replace money stolen from a purse. Often, the perpetrator gathers critical information about the target from social media before making the call. A single Facebook post, for instance, can provide a scammer with a wealth of information about the family dynamics. When the perpetrator makes the call, he/she may already know the grandchild’s name, the school he/she attends, parents and siblings names, the name of his/her significant other, and even details about a recent vacation or major achievement. The reality is that most seniors don’t think twice about what they post nor do they fully understand social media privacy settings, making all that information available to any and all who wish to look for it.
Protecting Your Elderly Loved Ones
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to decrease the odds of a loved one becoming the victim of elder financial abuse. Suggest the following “rules” to your senior loved ones :
- Educate yourself about privacy settings. If you learn nothing more this year, learn how social media privacy settings work. Make sure your settings aren’t set to “public” which allows anyone to see your posts. Do this once a month to ensure that they have not been changed or reset inadvertently – or ask your grandchild to do it for you.
- Less is more. Even if your privacy setting are set correctly, share sparingly. A single “share” by the wrong person, whose settings are not set on private, could completely negate all your efforts to keep your posts private.
- It’s O.K. to ignore friend requests. Seniors are particularly worried about being rude and tend to accept all friend requests as a result. This is not the time to worry about social graces. Do not accept friend requests unless you are certain you know the person making the request.
- Demand proof. If you get a call claiming someone is in trouble, ask for proof of the caller’s identity and the situation. Get a number to call back and do some fact checking.
- Create a family codeword. This works for all kinds of situations and is a very simple way to verify the legitimacy of a situation.
Contact a Vero Beach Elder Law Attorney
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, please contact an experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.