Scams targeting the vulnerable and elderly, including phishing emails, romance scams, grandparent scams, robocalls, fake websites and even direct mailings are increasing. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent your loved one from becoming a victim.
Be Alert for Signs of Scams
Before we can help loved ones, we need to educate ourselves on signs of a scam. These could include:
- Requests for money transfers or gift card purchases
- Payments made with gift cards
- Requests for personal information like login credentials, password confirmations or Social Security numbers
- Offers that sound too good to be true
- Urgent requests for action that have no alternative solution
- Suspicious content, including an unfamiliar greeting, grammar errors and misspelled words, email addresses and domain names that don’t match or brief messages that do not include enough detail
- Any unexpected attachments
- Unusual requests
- Uninitiated conversations
Start the Conversation and Serve as a Resource
Once you are familiar with signs of a scam, helping your loved one spot and avoid scams is all about starting a conversation. Throughout the conversation, avoid accusing your loved one of being naïve or gullible. Instead, emphasize the intent of the conversation is to help protect their safety and security. Your loved one may feel assured to hear everyone needs to take steps to protect their personal information.
As part of the conversation,
- Discuss trusted people your loved one can ask for advice if they receive suspicious communications
- Review common signs of a scam, like those listed above
- Stress the importance of not sharing personal information with strangers via phone, email, text message or online, even if they seem authoritative or trustworthy. Real organizations won’t ask for sensitive information over the phone.
- Discuss specific scams, like grandparent scams, in which loved ones may feel they are helping a relative that has fallen ill or gotten in trouble. A grandparent would not be the first point of contact in those situations and should avoid providing any financial assistance prior to talking with a trusted person.
- Remind them, if they feel the phone call is suspicious in any way, they should hang up immediately and ask a trusted person for assistance in determining next steps.
What to Do with Suspicious Communications
If loved ones do receive and respond to any suspicious communications, do not panic. Gather as much information as possible by asking them the following questions:
- Who contacted them?
- How did they reach them? Email? Text? Phone?
- What did the message contain?
- When did they receive the communication?
- Was it the first attempt to reach them?
- Did they respond?
- What information have they already shared?
Address the situation in a patient and kind manner. Remind your loved one you are there to help and that this can happen to anyone. Try to avoid demanding action on their part, rather offer advice on next steps. Remind your loved one they are in charge of their money and information and get to make final decisions on next steps.
If there is an immediate threat your loved one’s health or safety, or a theft has occurred, contact your local police department to report the incident.
Take Action Against Scams: Steps to Take if Your Loved One Suspects They are Involved in an Active Scam
If your loved one suspects they are actively being scammed, they should immediately:
- Hang up on all suspicious calls/delete emails/do not respond to text messages
- Report any suspicious activities immediately to their trusted person and discuss next steps
- Don’t respond or send money to anyone at any time who you do not know
- Update passwords and use unique passwords for all important login addresses
- Check credit reports if you are concerned about financial implications of a scam
- Contact local authorities, if necessary
Unfortunately, scams targeting the elderly and vulnerable are common. Loved ones may not always be aware of when someone is trying to take advantage of them through fraudulent activities. As friends and family members, educating yourself on scams and having difficult conversations can help vulnerable family members stay safe. By following the steps above, you can protect those you care about most from falling victim to fraudsters.
Additional Resources for Information on Scams
Use the following links to explore additional information regarding scams:
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCHP):
Current Scam Alerts: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/News_Media/ConsumerAlerts.aspx
Consumer Protection Fact Sheet: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Publications/Phishing402.aspx
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):
Fraud and Scams: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/fraud/
Fraud, Waste, and Financial Abuse:
In addition to scams, loved ones can fall victim to fraud, waste, or abuse. LCI and other agencies that administer the Family Care program are funded through Medicaid. LCI is committed to ensuring that Medicaid funds are utilized appropriately. Everyone has a responsibility to report a suspected fraud, waste, or financial abuse violation of LCI resources. Examples of each include:
Fraud: falsification of member records, claims for services not rendered, theft of resources, and embezzlement (stealing).
Waste: incorrect or unnecessary use of resources.
Financial Abuse: overutilization and underutilization of resources.
Anyone wishing to report any form of suspected fraud, waste, financial abuse, privacy violation, security breach, or unethical conduct may remain anonymous, and should contact LCI’s Compliance Division via one of the below methods.
Online form submission: https://www.lakelandcareinc.com/reporting-fraud/
Mail: Lakeland Care, Inc.
Attn: Compliance Division
N6654 Rolling Meadows Drive
Fond du Lac, WI 54937