In my book and in my prevention talks with seniors I go over what I call the “Three R’s” of scam prevention. Knowing the 10 Dead Giveaways for Scams is a part of the first “R” in my “3 R’s of Scam Prevention” work: Recognition. After all, a senior who recognizes when a scam is coming his or her way is much more likely to avoid victimization. When I talk to groups of elders about staying safe from scams, I am always seeking to build their abilities to know what to watch out for.
The first Dead Giveaway is when someone chooses the elderly person. Early on, it may not be completely evident that the friendly person on the phone or who engages them in a conversation in front of the drug store is a potential scammer. I tell them to be very cautious about anyone who calls them on the phone or who tries to chat them up out in public. Because the scammers are very skillful, and because seniors can be lonely and open to talking to a “nice person,” the stage can be set for a rip-off. My goal is to make seniors savvy and vigilant, not paranoid. Con artists are masterful at probing for weaknesses and vulnerabilities they can use to get what they want from the earliest contact with a victim.
Because of this, I recommend the following practices to seniors and those who care for them(so they can remind the senior):
• Hang up the phone if someone you don’t know calls you.
• If someone you don’t know comes to your door, don’t answer it.
• If you’re in your yard and someone comes up to you, politely decline to talk to them and go back inside. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW A STRANGER IN YOUR HOME! Police trainers who specialize in scam prevention emphasize that if a criminal gets in the elder’s home, something bad is going to happen. This applies even if they are asking to go to the bathroom, use the phone, or some other legitimate-sounding request.
• If you’re out shopping and someone starts talking to you, stay in a busy area. Never go with them anywhere, and if they ask you to do something or help them in some way, go to a manager or security guard and ask them for help.
A key strategy for staying safe from many types of scams is for a senior to never let themselves be chosen, but to always do the choosing. I invite you to remind your family, friends, and clients about this important scam safety practice.