No one is completely shielded from the risk of becoming a victim of a financial scam. However, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to such scams are seniors. It makes sense when you think about it, as this generation of individuals often did business with nothing but a handshake and trust. Consequently, someone’s word meant something. This unfortunately is the very thing many scammers use to take advantage of those who are more advanced in years. Therefore, if you, your loved one or friends are in this age group, it’s a good idea to do the following in order to avoid common financial scams:
Beware of Telemarketing Scams
According to AARP, 80% of telemarketing scams target seniors, especially those who have an above average income and are well-educated. In order to keep yourself or someone you love from falling prey to a telemarketing phone scam keep the following rules in mind:
- Never give out your social security number, date of birth, bank account number, credit card number or other important information (like if you are married) to anyone over the phone, ever! There is no legitimate organization that will call you and ask this information.
- Double check a telemarketer’s credentials. If you feel something is fishy about a caller, ask for their company name, address and a way to contact them later and tell them you will get back with them. Then, see in their information checks out. Remember, telemarketing scammers have become high tech. They can make your caller id read something official which further perpetuates their scam. You have to be diligent to figure out if a company is legitimate.
- Sign up for the do not call list. Telemarketers are regulated by the government in part. However, you have to sign up for the “do not call” list if you want to ensure they can’t contact you. The number to call is (888) 382-1222 or go to www.donotcall.gov.
Recognize Home Improvement Scams
Another common way seniors are scammed out of their hard-earned money is trusting phony contractors who promise a job well done and skip out either without starting the job or finishing it to the homeowner’s satisfaction. The following are a few ways to prevent yourself from falling victim to these scammers:
- Ask for references and check them out. Avoid using contractors no one you know has ever used if possible.
- Get several bids for any job you want completed. Beware of a price that seems too good to be true. Also, don’t allow yourself to be pressured to act too quickly.
- Draw up a contract and make sure every task and the material costs are listed on the contract. Also, ensure you get an estimated time in writing outlining the beginning and completion of your project.
- Don’t pay upfront for any job. Demand the work be accomplished before you pay. Make sure to check the job thoroughly before paying.
Avoid Door-to-Door Scams
Seniors also fall victim to high pressure door-to-door scammers. Sure, there are some salesmen that make an honest living going door-to-door, but many are con-artists and swindlers. Keep the following tips in mind to avoid door-to-door scams:
- Never let anyone enter your home.
- Don’t feel pressured into buying quickly. If you are interested in their product, ask them to leave information and tell them you will get back to them. This will give you time to check them and their product out.
- Ask for identification and/or credentials or any sale’s person. Some communities even require salespeople to have a permit.
- Don’t’ give cash to salespeople.
Keep the above tips in mind to ensure yourself and your loved one’s stay safe from scammers.