Make 2013 the year you take action against scams that target seniors

I know, you already made your New Year resolutions several weeks ago.

But I also know that you’re probably already using the treadmill as a clothes rack again, too, so it’s time to make some more.

This year, I am challenging you to take action against scams and identity theft that target older people.

Every year, seniors lose millions to scams that target them because crooks make certain assumptions:

  1. They’re wealthy
  2. They’re gullible
  3. They live alone
  4. They won’t tell anyone

And all too often, seniors who are victims of scams don’t tell their families, out of fear or shame. Too often, they do live without regular contact from their loved ones. That’s why it’s important to join in the fight against fraud.

Maybe it’s your parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles. Maybe it’s just a neighbor. Whoever you know, whoever you care about, talk to them. Tell them about the scams that target seniors—utility scams, the grandchild-in-jeopardy scam, the 419 scams, the phony investments (Iraqi Dinars), the fake sweepstakes calls, the work-at-home cons. You can find out more about these on this very site, and all over the Internet.

Visit more often this year. Have dinner together. Talk to them about life in general. Did they mention phone calls or letters that sound suspicious? You don’t have to pry or cajole—you don’t need to know every detail of their bank account, or try to convince them to add you as an authorized signer in most cases. But you need to talk more, be together more.

It’s important for other reasons, too, you know.

Can we all do that this year?

One for the kids and one for the seniors

Here’s a new scam that targets kids:

Among fans of Justin Bieber, getting the popstar to follow you on Twitter is apparently a badge of extreme OMG-ness, which means it was inevitable that a scam would surface exploiting the fact.

If you even mention the star on Twitter, there is a good chance someone will direct message you with a URL that supposedly reveals a surefire way to get the star to follow you back. It then leads you to a site that requires a cell phone number and for the victim to take yet another bogus IQ test.

What happens next: the victim’s phone is charged $10-$20 per month for some lame premium service, and Justin doesn’t follow them at all.

As of the latest reports, the original scam site had been shut down, but it won’t be long before it resurfaces. Warn the kids: anyone on Twitter that tells you they have a way to get a star to follow them back is leading them into a scam. Also, in a year when there’s some new pop culture obsession, just take out the words “Justin Bieber” and fill it in with the Current Big Thing, and repeat the warning.

Here’s one that targets seniors:

A guy in coveralls will hang around a parking lot and wait for an elderly person to go into the store. He’ll then dump some oil or brake fluid near the  car. When the potential victim returns, he’ll tell them he’s a mechanic and that he can fix the car. One he “fixes” the non-existent leak, he informs them he has to charge for the “service.” I would assume they get a bit aggressive if the victim refuses.

If someone in a parking lot offers you auto repairs out of the blue, politely refuse. Take your car home and park it. If there’s a (new) pool of fluid a few hours later, your car really does have a problem. Take it to a real mechanic you trust.

But there probably won’t be, because in all likelihood you were approached by a con artist.