We live in a world where technology drives almost everything we do.  Unfortunately, having almost everything at our fingertips can also make you vulnerable to scams and fraud.  In 2018, banks reported approximately 25,000 cases of suspicious activity, an increase of 12% from 2017.  An immense portion of these cases target senior citizens. Financial abuse is not always easy to distinguish, especially towards elders. As a result, banks have increased their surveillance of potential scams and fraudulent activity. In May 2018, the Senior Safe Act was signed into law, which allows banks to report all suspicious activity without concerns of being sued as long as compliance requirements are met.

Emails, robocalls, and telemarketers are some of the many ways senior citizens have been financially targeted.  In many cases, phishing emails are sent out to individuals as if they were from a real institution.  As most of us are aware, these fake emails use almost the exact same logo and company information in attempt to scam innocent internet users.  Before clicking on any links, be sure to check all content and recipient data. Ask yourself: Do I typically get emails like this from (fill in the blank)?

Most of us receive endless robocalls and messages from telemarketers.  Many people ignore most calls if they don’t recognize the caller ID.  Typically, if something seems out of the ordinary, odds are that you are correct.  When in doubt hang up with the person who called you and call the company’s customer service number or the agent you usually work with to confirm if any action needs to be taken.

These callers and e-mails can sometimes be highly convincing and unfortunately many seniors have been tricked into giving away sensitive information including social security numbers and transferring money.  The pushier the message the more often it is a scam. Many banks have been reporting unusual account transactions such as foreign bank wiring.  In most cases, a typical consumer will not come in and request a large sum of cash to be sent overseas. This should immediately spark a red flag at a bank and should be reported to appropriate agencies.  Artificial intelligence has been used and is a hot topic for financial institutions to help spot suspicious transactions before they are authorized.

Although advances have been made, lawmakers, banks, and other financial institutions are continuing to look for more ways to combat increased senior citizen scams, fraud, and financial abuse.  While senior citizens are more vulnerable please remember anyone can be targeted and to be vigilant in protecting yourself financially.

Suggestions to protect yourself against hackers and fraudulent activity:

  • Set up 2 factor identification for all financial and bank accounts. Allows users to sign in with their username and password, then entering a unique code from your phone/email
  • Regularly review account balances and transactions. Any unfamiliar activity should be a red flag and reported immediately.
  • Never click on links from emails unless it is secure and a verified account. Hackers send out “phishy” emails which resemble real companies.
  • Create strong usernames and passwords. Many websites recommend having at least 8 characters including upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers. This makes it difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts.
  • Never give away your social security number to anyone over the phone or by email. In addition, ignore any unusual requests for bank wires. This immediately is a sign of a scam.

What to do if you may be a victim:

  • Immediately report any suspicious activity to police if you feel you may be a victim of a cybercrime. Contact the institution where the activity took place and notify your credit card companies to help freeze your accounts. Any identity theft should also be reported to the FTC.