In the initial installment of our series, we delved into two prevalent scams preying on older adults this year: the grandparent scam and cryptocurrency pickpocketing. In this week’s blog, we’re shedding light on two additional scams that demand your attention and vigilance. Plus, we’ll provide you with invaluable tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones. Let’s dive right in.
Picture this scenario: you open your email, and there, in your inbox, is an urgent message seemingly from a reputable source—your bank, a renowned online retailer, or even a social media platform. The email claims to have detected suspicious activity on your account and insists that you click a link or disclose sensitive information to verify your identity. This is the classic phishing email, a cunning ploy to trick you into revealing your personal data.
Phishing has been a menace since the dawn of email, but what’s evolved is the level of sophistication employed by scammers to appear genuine. Even if you or your parents are well-acquainted with phishing email tactics, novel approaches and technological advancements make it more challenging than ever to discern a phishing attempt.
The Ever-Evolving World of Phishing Scams
Phishers often masquerade as trusted entities like banks, governmental bodies, or department stores. However, in recent times, phishers have stepped up their game by sending highly personalized emails designed to make the recipient believe they’re from someone they know personally or are closely associated with. These emails address the recipient by name and may appear to be sent by a friend, colleague, or supervisor. They might even feature a genuine-looking email domain, signature, or logo.
Typically, these emails will claim there’s a time-sensitive matter requiring immediate attention, such as buying a gift for a colleague’s birthday or an important client. They’ll ask the victim to purchase the gift using online gift cards, PayPal, or cryptocurrency. For instance, you could receive an email like this:
“Hello Jim, this is Mr. Boss. I’ll be tied up in meetings all day today, but I urgently need to send a $200 Amazon gift card to our new client. Please make the purchase and send it to this email address. I’ll then forward it to our client.”
Some phishers may pose as banks, lending institutions, or debt relief programs, claiming that you’ve been approved for special credit or financial assistance. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan pauses, and hurricane season, you may encounter an email such as this:
“Hi Aaron, it’s Gav from the Hardship Relief Program. We tried reaching you at your home without success. I’m not sure if you’ve spoken to an assigned agent yet, but you’re pre-approved for our Hardship Program. I’ll keep this in a pending status. Please call me between 8 AM and 10 AM EST to discuss the details. My number is 555-886-3424.”
Spotting Scams: It’s All About the Details
Before responding to any email requesting a phone call, evaluate the legitimacy of the sender’s request. Did you open an account or submit an application? Is it typical for your boss to email you regarding important requests?
Always scrutinize the sender’s email address, even if it appears legitimate. Hover over the address with your cursor to reveal its true origin. Avoid clicking on suspicious links and never share personal information via email, regardless of how professional the email looks. Check for typos in the email and “from address” and verify the sender’s details, such as the company name and phone number, by conducting an online search. When in doubt, contact the company directly through official channels to confirm the message’s authenticity.
In the realm of online marketplaces like Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, and Craigslist, scammers are intensifying their attacks by exploiting the kindness of others. Enter the online overpayment scam, where the fraudster pretends to be interested in purchasing an item you’ve listed for sale online. The scammer offers to buy your item, often at an inflated price, and sends a payment exceeding the agreed-upon amount.
The scammer then asks you to refund the surplus amount they “mistakenly” sent, often feigning panic and distress. They may even threaten to report you to the police for “stealing” their money. But here’s the twist: the overpayment sent by the scammer is counterfeit—a fraudulent check or forged payment confirmation email that creates the illusion of funds received when, in reality, nothing was sent. When you refund the excess amount, you’re essentially giving away your legitimate money, and by the time you realize the scam, the perpetrator has vanished into the digital abyss.
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
To shield yourself and your parents from this sinister scam:
Always insist that online buyers use traceable payment methods like PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo.
Avoid sending or receiving money from strangers through non-refundable money transfer services like Zelle.
Never accept more money than the agreed purchase price.
If a buyer requests a refund, verify the receipt of funds by checking your payment service account balance. Do not rely solely on a confirmation email, as it can be easily forged, especially if your payment account does not reflect any received payments.
Safeguarding Your Assets and Loved Ones
Keeping up with the ever-evolving landscape of financial scams may seem overwhelming, but armed with the right knowledge and tools, you can protect yourself and your aging parents from the financial and emotional toll these scams exact.
As your trusted Personal Family Lawyer™ firm, we’re here to facilitate discussions about your financial well-being within your estate plan. We’ll help you catalog your assets and create strategies for mutual assistance in emergencies or scam attempts.
If you want to discover more about how partnering with a Personal Family Lawyer® firm can benefit you and your family, schedule a complimentary 15-minute discovery call today. We’re committed to safeguarding your family’s plans for now and the years to come.
This article is a service of Law Office of Dana Baker, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.
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