Avoiding phone scams

By Chris Taydus
Manager, Riderwood TV

Seniors are one of the most popular targets of scams in the United States. In fact, those over the age of 65 are 34% more likely to have lost money in a financial scam than their counterparts in their 40s. There are a variety of reasons why seniors are often targeted: a large amount of retirement income, a generally polite and trusting demeanor, and a penchant to be more likely to answer the phone are just a few reasons.

Gerald and Judith Buckner, a couple at Riderwood, recently received a scam phone call that played on their most precious commodity, their love for their family. They conveyed this story to the Riderwood Reporter:

One-day last month we received a phone call from a person who identified himself as “your oldest grandson.” He told me that last night he was at a party where he had a couple of beers. On the way home he had a small fender bender accident in which his nose was broken. He was then arrested for driving under the influence. He was in jail and wanted us to post bail for him.

He gave us the phone number of his court appointed lawyer. We called this person and he told us that all bail is now posted on-line. We went to our bank and got $3,000. We were instructed to bring the money to an address in Silver Spring. There, at a Convenience store, we found an ATM-like machine where we were instructed to deposit $2,000 and send it to the lawyer.

During this time, we were becoming more suspicious of the whole process. We tried to call our grandson, but he could not be reached. So, we called the police and told them what was going on. They confirmed our suspicions that we had been scammed, but we were told there was not much they could do.

The intention of relaying this story is not to stoke a fear, but to remind residents that in the heat of the moment (such as receiving a phone call from your grandson in jail), many people, including those over and under 65, could benefit from taking a deep breath and considering who might really be on the other line.

First and foremost, remain calm and do your best to avoid acting strictly out of a sense of urgency. Scammers in this type of situation often attempt to get you so upset that you’re blind to holes in their stories.

If available, consult the Caller ID on your phone. While some scammers can simulate a call from a different number, many times this can be a quick way to confirm the story being presented to you. Then ask the person their full name, birthday, address, their mother’s name, or any other information that is personal enough that most scammers will not have it. While it might seem cold to do so when your family member is in trouble, the long-term benefits of avoiding a scam could be worth it.

You can also try contacting the family member in distress using a phone number that you had prior to the phone call or try contacting their parent, sibling, spouse, or child. Don’t use the phone number that the potential scammer has given you.

According to the website of the Michigan attorney general you should not, under any circumstances, provide personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who contacts you on the phone.

And finally, contact the authorities. Whether it be the Riderwood Security Department or the local police, these offices are trained what to look for when it comes to scam phone calls. They can offer advice and assistance, and, while it might be a long shot, they can use information to try and stop the scammer.

Javelin Strategy & Research, a California based research-based advisory firm, conducted a survey earlier this year and reported that between 2011 and 2016 there was a 32% increase in the amount of fraud victims (though the total amount stolen has decreased). That increase can be disheartening, but with a bit of information and the chance to think it through, many of these cases can be prevented. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


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