Scams prey on the Elderly

Don’t Let Your Elderly Parents Become Victims of the Grandparent Scam

A recent client was concerned about guardianship scams and other news recently being circulated.  It is a fair concern and she is being very wise to think about how this might affect her elderly parent.  Scams are nothing new, but do you know how they work?

Imagine this… You are an elderly grandparent who lives alone.

You get a call in the middle of the night from your college-aged granddaughter. She’s frantic and crying, telling you she was mistakenly arrested while vacationing in Cancun.

She says she needs you to pay her $1,800 bond, or she’ll be transferred to a dangerous Mexican prison. The Mexican police told her she only has a few hours before she’s transferred, so she needs you to wire the money immediately.

She’s petrified about her parents finding out she was arrested and begs you not to tell them. Because she only has a couple of minutes to use the police station phone, the call ends abruptly before you can get any further details.

What do you do?

If you’re like the thousands of others (including me) who’ve gotten just such a call, you’d probably wire the money in a heartbeat. It is your grandchild’s life after all. However, just like the others, you’d soon find out that your granddaughter hasn’t been arrested and was never in Mexico.

The Grandparent Scam

Known as the Grandparent Scam, this con has been around for years, and while it may seem far fetched, it has tricked many caring seniors. And in recent months, there has been an uptick in the number of people falling prey to the deception.

The details can vary, but the scam typically works like this:

  1. You get a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild. The “grandchild” explains he or she is in trouble and needs money immediately. They might be in jail and need bond or be stranded in a foreign country and need money to get out.
  2. The caller asks you to wire money to a specific location or give it to a third party, usually someone posing as a lawyer or police officer.
  3. The “grandchild” will often plead with you not to tell their parents they’re in trouble.
  4. Once you send the money, the caller breaks off all contact, making it impossible to recover your funds.

Another variation asks for funds to help refugees, or to confirm the taxes on your lottery winnings, and more.  The information they use to run the scam is usually posted right on Facebook or other social media.  There, anyone can find the names of your family, where you live, and whether you are on vacation (because so many of us post pictures from our current vacation spot!)

Truth be known, my grandchildren actually live in Mexico, so this could be very hard to ignore at our house!  But, like any scam, every call like this should be evaluated carefully.  I’ve received half a dozen emails or phone calls with this general type of scam over the past few years, and of course, none of them has been real.

Preying on the vulnerable

While just about anyone can fall for such scams, the elderly are the ones targeted most often. This is due to the fact that seniors are frequently lonely and eager to hear from family. And whether it’s because their hearing is failing or because they haven’t seen their family members in a while, they’re more likely to not recognize voices.

Due to their advanced age, seniors are also less likely to think clearly in a crisis, making them more susceptible to fear and panic. Finally, the elderly are less familiar with technology and social media, so they don’t realize how easy it is to access enough of someone’s personal details to make the scenario seem realistic.

What to do

In most cases, the best course of action is to simply hang up and contact the authorities. However, if the caller really does sound like the family member they claim to be, here are some steps you can take to help verify the situation is legitimate:

  1. Don’t panic. It’s far easier to be deceived if you’re nervous or scared.
  2. Be wary of calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Ask to call them back on the person’s own phone, and never accept requests sent solely by email or text.
  3. Verify the caller’s identity by asking them questions only the actual person would know the answer to, such as the name of their first pet.
  4. Beware of urgent demands that money be sent immediately. Reputable sources don’t try to pressure you into making split-second financial decisions.
  5. Call other family and friends to verify where the person is. A reputable source will respect your caution and give you the opportunity to verify the facts.
  6. Requests for money to be wired are often scams, as it’s nearly impossible to get your money back in cases of fraud. Request a more secure transaction method, such as through a bank or PayPal. Legitimate sources are likely to offer multiple payment options.

Comprehensive protection

Please share this article with any seniors in your life. There are countless other scams out there that work in much the same way, so even if it’s not this particular con, by becoming aware how these deceptions work, they’ll be much less likely to fall for them.

Of course, scams and cons are just one threat to seniors’ financial security. Without comprehensive estate planning, there are numerous other ways your family’s wealth and assets can be squandered or lost through financial abuse which have nothing to do with fraud.

Consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to put planning strategies in place to safeguard your family’s finances and other assets, both tangible and intangible. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

New iTunes version of Grandma Scam

iTunes gift cards used in “Grandma, it’s me!” scam

Scammers pulling off the Grandparent scam have found a new way to get their money. A Charlotte-area senior recently reported paying $26,000 to grandparent scammers using Apple iTunes gift cards, suppo​​sedly to bail a grandchild out of jail on DWI charges.

At the scammer’s direction, the grandparent purchased 52 Apple iTunes gift cards over three days, each card loaded with $500. The scammer, still masquerading as the grandchild, got the grandparent to read off the numbers on the back of the cards over the telephone and made off with the money.

Scammers are constantly looking for new methods to update old cons. Traditionally, the grandparent scam asks victims to wire money via Western Union or Moneygram. Now, some scammers have started demanding payment via prepaid credit card, reloadable debit card or gift card

To protect yourself from the grandparent scam and similar frauds:

·         Hang up on calls from “grandchildren” or others who claim to be loved ones in trouble. For quick confirmation that everything is OK, immediately call the person on a phone number you know is really theirs, such as their cell phone.

·         Be deeply suspicious whenever someone contacts you and demands that you send money quickly, whether they request payment by reloadable debit card, prepaid credit card, or wire service.

·         If you spot a scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Ransomware – take care and protect yourself!

From Lawyer’s Mutual of North Carolina.  This information was sent for law firms, but can affect everyone, so I’m posting sections of it in hopes that at least one person might be helped!

“You’ve heard of malware which is software intended to damage or disable computers. Ransomware is software designed to block access to a computer system (hold your client files hostage) until a sum of money is paid. If the money isn’t paid, your files stay encrypted forever.  A recent episode of “The Good Wife” used ransomware as part of the storyline – doug.

Many malicious computer attacks require that the user click on something. However, the most recent versions have been using digitally signed certificates to appear authentic to security programs. Then, the ransomware is embedded within advertisements on websites. This has allowed them to evade detection by most anti-virus products while requiring little or no action by the user in order for the virus to be downloaded.

In fact, in some cases, a user visited a legitimate website and an infected advertisement on that website began automatically running, which downloaded the virus.

What you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Make regular backups of your data system and do not have them accessible through your network. Some options include daily or real-time cloud-based backups or nightly serial backups onto an external drive that is disconnected when not backing up the system.
  • Install an ad blocker plug-in on your web browser such as Adblock Plus.
  • Keep your web browser up to date.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
  • Enable the “Click to Play” feature on your internet browser and for any plug-ins.
  • Be vigilant about the websites you visit.
  • Think before you click – some viruses are disguised as security alerts such as telling you there is a virus on your computer, exploiting your desire to click on the window quickly to get rid of it…only to then find that it was a trap.
  • Do not click on advertisements – rather go to the company’s page by typing in its normal web address URL.
  • Avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails.

Do not download attachments unless you are sure of their source and content.

If you are a victim, the FBI’s recommended course of action from 11/8/2013 is to “scrub your hard drive and restore encrypted files from a backup” (https://www.fbi.gov/washingtondc/news-and-outreach/stories/cryptolocker-ransomware-encrypts-users-files). It is also recommended that you file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at  www.ic3.gov.”

Scam alert

We occasionally hear that some of our clients are approached with various scams.  The following is an alert from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper:

Phony Card Cancellation Notices Arrive Via Phone

Consumers in North Carolina are receiving automated telephone calls saying that their credit or debit card has been canceled or deactivated. The message offers recipients a way to get their card back into service. The calls are coming from a variety of numbers. Sometimes Caller ID displays only a partial number, or a number with no area code. The company or financial institution that issued the card is not named in the message.

Some recipient are instructed to “Press 1” (or 2), while others are given a telephone number to call. Regardless of the approach, eventually they will be asked to enter their credit or debit card number, or other confidential information.

Consumers are getting better about recognizing these scams and fortunately none of the many consumers who have reported to our office in the last 24 hours have fallen for it. One was glad to have been warned about these kinds of scams because “in the past I would have immediately called them back.”

Text or voicemail messages warning of problems with your account and offering a “fix” if you enter your account information are always phony. A legitimate company might use a message to let you know of a problem, but only if you have previously provided your number and specifically asked to be notified in that manner. But they will never ask you to supply information.

If you believe that you‘ve been scammed, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Ratings and Reviews

Top Attorney​, 2015-2016​

Three Best Rated in Durham for Estate Planning