When the kids grow up and move out, not only is there more space at home for older couples, but they may have a little more money in their bank accounts as well.
And it’s that attractive financial background that could make even the most savvy of older residents susceptible to a number of mail and phone scams.
That’s exactly the message Bernard Macias, associate state director of AARP Long Island, wants to share as part of a series of Herald Inside LI webinars hosted by RichnerLive.
“They will gain the most (financially) from these folks,” Macias shared during a recent webinar. “They own a home and they have good credit. So financially, they have a lot more at stake.”
The first two installments of the webinars — which can be watched at tinyurl.com/HeraldInsideLI — also featured Donna Harris, Michael Del Giudice and Joseph Marcus from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. A third one is scheduled for Thursday, April 28 at noon. There are a variety of ways people can be scammed — by mail, by phone, by email — and some can sound quite convincing.
Like charity scams. The trick? Don’t succumb to pressure to pull out your credit card.
“There are some that are legitimate businesses,” Harris said. “But instead of giving over the phone — because you don’t know who you’re speaking with — ask them to mail you the information.”
And then there’s the now-infamous “grandparent” scam.
“A grandparent receives a phone call or email from their grandchild,” Marcus said. “They say, ‘I’m in trouble. I’m in Cancun. I had a beer on the street, and I was arrested, and now I need to be bailed out.’”
Such calls usually happen late at night or early in the morning, he added, and that the scammer posing as the grandchild warns their victim not to tell their parents or they’ll get in “trouble.”
The best way to combat that scam? Call their parents. Ask for their grandchild’s whereabouts.
“Just call and ask, ‘Where’s Johnny?’ Is he in Cancun?’” Marcus said. “They’ll say, ‘No, he’s in his room.’ It’s a scam.”
But how do these scammers even know who Johnny is? That could be our own fault, Marcus said. We tend to overshare about our personal lives and family on social media platforms like Facebook. It’s the perfect place for someone to gather all the information they need about family, locations, and even their interests.
While a scammer might temporarily hijack an identity to scam someone, actual identify theft remains a serious problem.
“Identify theft is the compromise of what I like to call your financial DNA,” Harris said. “This includes your name, your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, passwords — anything that can be used to assume your identity without your authorization.”
One of the most common ways identity theft happens, Del Giudice said, is through scam calls.
“Today, I probably got around five scam calls,” he said during the first webinar April 7. “There’s always somebody trying to offer me a great deal on car insurance or solar heating or whatever. If you start talking to them, they’ll ask you for your home address, date of birth and Social Security number.”
If someone believes they are an identity theft victim, it’s important to place a fraud alert on their credit report, Del Giudice said. That same credit report — which is available free each year — also is a great way to identify if a scammer is using their name to open accounts and lines of credit.
If something is found, file a report with the police and the Federal Trade Commission, Del Giudice said. Organize personal information and continue to monitor credit reports and bills.
The AARP webinar series will conclude Thursday, April 28 at noon, focusing on romance scams. Then, on Saturday, April 30, AARP Long Island and Herald Community Newspapers will host an in-person shredding event between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., at the newspaper group’s Garden City headquarters at 2 Endo Blvd.
To register for the free shredding event, visit LIHerald.com/shred. To register for the final webinar, visit LIHerald.com/romance.