Senior citizens in particular are targets for scammers. It’s easy to be taken in by a scam email or phone call, so here are some tips on how to recognize them. I’m not an expert on this topic, but I’m speaking from my own experience. I have never been a victim of a scam because I’m careful. I’m sharing with you the care I take to avoid scammers.
If you do end up speaking with or exchanging emails with a scammer, remember this above all else: If it sounds too good to be true, it’s a scam. If they ask for any personally identifying information, it’s a scam. If they ask for money, it’s a scam. Better yet, though, it’s important to recognize the emails so you don’t open them and scammers’ phone numbers so you don’t answer them. If they say they are from your bank, etc., hang up and call your bank.
Scam emails: The main danger with emails occurs when you open an attachment or click on a link that contains a virus. Never click on a link or attachment you are not expecting. For attachments, look at the file name. If the suffix is “.htm” or “.html” it’s a website, not an attachment, and it will capture your information and suck you in. Word files (“.doc” or “.docx”) can also contain hidden links in them that capture your information or plant a virus on your computer. An Acrobat file (“.PDF”) might be safe, but I wouldn’t open one I’m not expecting from a trusted person. If the PDF asks you to enter something like a password or email address before opening, you know it’s a scam or virus, so don’t do it!
Look at the email address of the sender, but more importantly, float your cursor over the address to see what the sender’s real email address is, because it could be different. That’s a red flag. Look at the suffix on the email address. If it’s not “.com” or “.net” or “.org” or “.edu” or “.gov” it might be for a foreign country – another red flag. If it says the attachment is a voicemail, or an invoice, or a “payment advice,” that attachment is probably a website and it’s a scam. If you have opened an email and the whole message is one link because wherever you float the cursor you see the finger pointer instead of the arrow pointer, that’s a red flag. Close the email and delete it! If there are links in an email, float your cursor over the link without clicking on it, and see if it’s the same. For example, the link might look legitimate, such a “microsoft.com,” but when you float over it you see some other address, perhaps ending in a country code (“.uk” or “.ru” etc.) that’s a red flag. Close and delete the message! If you do visit a website, float over any link within that website for the same reason.
Phone calls and text messages: It’s best to let unknown calls from unknown numbers go into voicemail. Usually a scammer won’t leave a voicemail, so don’t think you missed anything important. Look at the phone number. Never answer a call from an “unknown” number or a number from another country or a number from “United States” instead of a specific city. If you answer the phone and the person uses your legal first name instead of your nickname, and if they ask how you are today instead of just saying hello, they’re either a solicitor or a scammer. You don’t need to be polite. No need to say goodbye, just hang up.
On text messages, use the same advice as above. Don’t click on a link. You can ignore text messages. If it’s a real person, they’ll call you if you don’t respond. Above any text message will be an icon for the sender. Touch it, then the word “Info” to learn more about who the sender may be.
I hope this has been helpful. If so, of it not, let me know!