It happened again just this past week. Mom called with the news that she received another late-night unsolicited phone call. Telephone fraud and identity theft is so rampant that everyone should be on guard when it comes to providing information from an unknown caller. However, our seniors are especially vulnerable to senior identity theft if they live at home alone.
This particular caller was telling my mother that her computer was not operating properly and that he could help her solve the problem if she granted him remote access to her computer system. Luckily, she didn’t share any information with the caller and hung up. However, she received a second call within the hour and this time a woman was offering to walk her through the recovery process for her computer. Again, Mom told the caller that she would have her son-in-law check out her computer and hung up the phone.
According to a 2011 MetLife Mature Market Institute study, Americans over the age of 60 lose nearly $2.9 billion annually to fraud. Here are a few tips that long-distance caregivers can follow in order to help their senior loved ones protect their identity from unsolicited callers:
1. Never provide any information to unknown callers.
Do not discuss schedules, routines, habits, and never share or confirm your name, address, phone number or any account information. If you believe the caller represents your credit card company, financial institution or some other known place of business, terminate the call and make a call to the institution from a telephone number on a statement or other known document.
2. Do not stay on the line with unknown callers.
Although the caller may appear helpful, terminate the call and initiate a call of your own with the institution or place of business to confirm that the caller is legitimate.
3. Use your answering machine as a screening tool.
It is not rude to screen your calls! Allow your answering machine to pick up the call and wait for verification that you know the caller before you continue with the call. If the caller is unknown, allow them to leave a message and then determine if you know the source of the call.
If you are worried that you’ll miss a call from a family member or friend, let your callers know your new practice. Instruct them to identify themselves on the answering machine and let them know that you will pick up the call once you hear their name.
Texans can fight fraud and identity theft by learning about popular scams and protecting themselves from potential theft. AARP Texas, the Better Business Bureau and the Texas State Securities Board are hosting Scam Jams across the state this summer. While it’s not the summer of Woodstock, the Scam Jam is a great opportunity to learn about theft through fraud and scams. Tools such as mobile shredding machines and other devices will be on hand during the local Scam Jams.
The Houston Scam Jam is June 20 from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. at the Bayland Community Center, 6400 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77074. To learn more about the event, visit www.aarp.org/tx