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Tips for Seniors to Avoid Common Financial Scams

No one likes to think they could be the victim of a scam, but unfortunately, it happens to people every day and seniors are particularly vulnerable. Financial scammers are after just one thing: your money. They may try to trick you into investing in a bogus business opportunity or sending them cash to help with an emergency. They may even pose as a debt collector in an attempt to get you to pay them money you don’t actually owe. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to be aware of the signs of a financial scam and know how to protect yourself. Staying safe financially means being informed and taking steps to protect yourself and your hard-earned money. Don’t let a scammer take advantage of you – arm yourself with knowledge and stay alert.

New and improved technology has made it so much easier for fraudsters and scam artists to steal financial data from unsuspecting consumers. In fact, according to a 2017 Javelin Strategy & Research’s Identity Fraud Study, in 2016 hackers and swindlers stole a whopping US$16 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers! Their research also revealed that, in 2019, there were 1,473 recorded data breaches.

Staying safe financially can be difficult for people who don’t have a lot of experience. This makes it easy for scammers to target those who may not know how to protect themselves, whether it be identity theft, data breaches, or online scams. Additionally, financial scammers often use high-pressure tactics to try to get people to make decisions quickly. They may also threaten legal action or use other scare tactics to get what they want. They even create fake documents or websites that look real in order to trick people into giving them money, but by understanding how these scams work you can be better prepared to protect yourself and your hard-earned money. 

Tip No. 1: Beware of Strangers Asking You to Wire Funds

This rule for staying safe financially is very basic: NEVER, EVER WIRE MONEY TO A STRANGER! Unfortunately, some consumers are still being caught up in these types of scams because they don’t believe the person they’re messaging online is actually a stranger. That’s how good these scammers are!

There are a few common Nigerian scams that you should be aware of in order to stay safe. One scam is the “419” scam, named after the section of the Nigerian penal code that outlaws fraud. In this type of scam, the fraudster poses as a wealthy individual or business owner who needs help moving money out of the country. They promise a large sum of money in exchange for help, but once the victim agrees to help, they disappear with the money. 

Another common scam is known as the “advance fee” scam. In this type of scam, the fraudster will contact the victim and claim to have won a large sum of money in a contest or lottery. They then ask the victim to pay a small fee in order to collect the winnings; however, once the fee is paid the scammer disappears with the victim’s money. These are just two of the most common Nigerian scams, so it’s important to be aware of them in order to protect yourself financially.

Note that, once you’ve taken the leap and wired cash overseas, it’s almost impossible to trace the money or reverse the transaction.

Tip No. 2: Keep Your Financial Details to Yourself

When it comes to staying financially safe, one of the most important things to remember is to never disclose your financial details to anyone. This includes things like your bank account number, credit card number, or social security number. There are a few reasons why this is so important. First of all, if someone were to get their hands on this information they could easily access your accounts and start making charges or withdrawals. They could also use your information to open new accounts in your name and run up debts that you would ultimately be responsible for. Additionally, identity thieves could use your financial information to apply for loans or lines of credit, which could damage your credit score. 

Scammers can (and often do!) call, text, and email, always claiming to be from some government agency, financial institution, or retailer. They’ll say they’re calling about your compromised account and need to update your information. What they’re really after is your credit card or social security number. This is what’s commonly referred to as ‘phishing.’ Keep in mind that your credit card company or bank will never ask for your personal information, so if you’re on the receiving end of a suspicious email or phone call, immediately call your credit card company or bank and ask them to check your account status.

As you can see, it’s essential to always keep your financial information private to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.

Tip No. 3: Remember that Banks and Financial Institutions will Never Ask for Your Financial Details by Email

We’ve probably all experienced this one. You receive an email from a person or company asking you to open an attachment or click on a hyperlink immediately. Don’t do it! They’ll be asking for your financial information. Even if the email seems to be from your credit card company or bank, you must delete the email straight away. This type of scam is known as ‘pharming.’ According to the Better Business Bureau, any email of this sort that requests your personal information must be ignored and deleted.

Tip No. 4: Use Uncrackable Passwords 

Long gone are the days when we could use passwords like 01234 or common words like ‘Password’.

It’s imperative to your financial safety that you use uncrackable passwords to protect your accounts from thieves, and while it may be tempting to use the same password for all of your accounts, that’s also a dangerous mistake. Why? Because if a thief manages to crack that password, they’ll have access to everything. That’s why it’s important to use different passwords for each of your accounts and to ensure those passwords are as strong as possible. The best passwords are long (at least eight characters), include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and are completely unique. So next time you’re creating a new password, take the time to create something that’s truly uncrackable. It could save you a lot of heartache down the road.

But how do you remember all these different passwords? We suggest using a password program like LastPass or RoboForm. Not only will these programs help generate unbreakable passwords, they also help you access them quickly and securely.

Tip No. 5: Keep Your Social Security Number to Yourself

Your Social Security number is just that – YOURS! If an email or website asks for your Social Security number, DO NOT GIVE IT! Legitimate businesses do not ask for this information so it’s more than likely a scam.

Tip No. 6: Keep Your Spyware Protection and Antivirus Software Up To Date

Today, it’s more important than ever to keep your computer protected from spyware and viruses. Not only can these malicious programs damage your computer or steal your personal information, they can also put you at financial risk. If your bank account details are stolen by a virus, you could be left with sizable financial losses. In addition, many virus-infected computers are used to send spam emails or participate in other illegal activities without the owner’s knowledge. As a result, staying up to date on antivirus and spyware protection is not only good for your computer’s health – it’s also essential for staying safe financially.

Tip No. 7: When Shopping Online, Stick With Reputable Retailers

The rise of online shopping has seen a huge increase in scams and other fraudulent activity. As a result, it’s important to only shop with reputable retailers who have a good track record of providing quality products and protecting their customers’ information. When you stick with reputable retailers, you can be reasonably confident you’re keeping yourself and your information safe. Reputable retailers are more likely to offer good customer service and stand behind their products should any problems arise. However, if you’re considering purchasing from an unfamiliar retailer, make sure you do your research first to ensure you’re dealing with a trustworthy, legitimate business. Check out the Better Business Bureau’s website; you can also search online for consumer complaints and feedback.

Tip No. 8: Never Trust A Pop-Up Window

We’ve all experienced this one – you’re minding your own business, browsing the internet when all of a sudden a pop-up window appears. It’s usually some sort of offer or advertisement, and it’s hard to resist clicking on it. However, you should never trust a pop-up window because they are often used to scam people out of their money. They’re used to phish for personal information, such as credit card numbers or account passwords. They can also be used to install malware on your computer. So, next time a pop-up window appears, don’t click on it! 

Tip No. 9: Restrict Your Surfing to Safe, Well-Known Websites

There are plenty of good reasons to stick to well-known websites when you’re surfing the internet. For starters, you can be pretty sure these sites are secure and won’t put your financial information at risk. With a less well-known site, you may not have the same level of assurance. Also, well-known websites tend to have better customer service if something goes wrong. 

Need more assurance? Before entering your financial details on any website, have a look at their privacy rules. Also, ensure the website uses encryption: This will be symbolized with a ‘lock’ to the left of the web address. This lock ensures the details you enter are safely encrypted, protecting your data against hackers.

Tip No. 10: Concentrate Your Philanthropy on Legitimate Charities

When you donate to a registered charity, you can be confident that your money is going to a good cause. The government regulates charities to ensure they use donations appropriately, so you can be sure that your money is being used efficiently and effectively. Legitimate charities are required to disclose their finances publicly, so you can see exactly how your donation is being used. This transparency helps build trust between donors and charities and ensures that donors know exactly where their money is going. 
Before making a donation to charity, do your homework. There are plenty of scammers out there creating bogus charities for the sole purpose of stealing your credit card details. Check the IRS website where you can search for legitimate charities.

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