A recent article in AARP Magazine cited a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report that has logged over 670,000 public complaints of scams, many of them related to COVID-19 topics ranging from stimulus checks to miracle cures.
These scams are dangerous for all of us, but particularly concerning when they prey upon aging, cognitively challenged individuals, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
The pandemic appears to have brought out the worst in the hackers and scammers (as if they could get worse!) and they continue to target the most vulnerable of us with schemes and tricks that cost consumers over $600 million last year.
While we may not be able to stop these criminals in their tracks, there are things we can learn about them and things we can do to safeguard our loved ones from becoming victims.
Here, taken from the AARP article, are just a few of the latest scams to be aware of:
Fake tests and cures
This comes in the form of fake “pop up” testing clinics, in which imposters pose as healthcare clinicians. They walk the wait lines obtaining personal details (medical, financial, etc.) about each individual as they wait for their “test”.
Robocalls are also being used, directing consumers to bogus websites selling test kits and, in the process, collecting financial information from the unsuspecting victim.
Calls from “The IRS” and “Banks”
Scammers masquerading as IRS or banking officials are infiltrating the phone lines these days with robocalls engineered to lure unsuspecting consumers into giving up personal and financial details to “get a COVID stimulus check”.
It is important to note that these callers identify themselves as IRS representatives or bank professionals.
Phishing and spoofing
Cybercrooks are particularly adept at setting up fake websites and luring consumers into their webs of deceit through emails. Referred to as “phishing”, these emails are cleverly “branded” using nomenclature and terminology that can be convincing to an unsuspecting consumer. Once on their site, they will have already collected information about the consumer from their IP address. Then, they’ll ask for financial information and passwords. Once they have that, they’re into the consumer’s bank account, which will be quickly cleaned out.
This is all pretty scary to think about. There are things you can do, however, to protect yourself and vulnerable family members.
Here are 5 tips to pass along to your family members, especially those who are older and may have some cognitive loss:
- Never click on links or download files from unexpected emails. If in doubt, contact the institution using a published phone number off a bill or other material. Do not call the number shown on the email!
- Never share personal information such as social security number, credit card numbers in response to an unsolicited call, text or email.
- Be wary of phone calls, emails or texts urging you to invest in a “hot” new stock.
- Be wary of fundraiser calls or emails purporting to help COVID victims or fund research.
- Seek legitimate COVID testing sites. If in doubt, check with your local healthcare provider.
Aging individuals, particularly those challenged by dementia, are more vulnerable than ever to these heartless, senseless scams.
The more we can do identify them, report them and protect our loved ones from falling prey to them, the better chance we will have to wipe out more of this criminal activity and bring to justice the perpetrators.
For more information about the latest scams, you can visit the FTC Scam-Alert website.
Stay safe out there!