LIFESTYLE

How to talk to older people in your life about scams

Nov 10, 2023, 2:12 AM

A page from the National Council on Aging website is shown in this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 9, 20...

A page from the National Council on Aging website is shown in this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 in New York. In 2022, consumers lost $8.8 billion to scammers. And older adults lost the highest amount of money compared to other age groups, according to the Federal Trade Commission. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

NEW YORK (AP) — This summer, Daniel Goldstein’s 86-year-old mom got an email that looked like it was from her bank. She was alarmed because she hadn’t spent the money it mentioned, so she called a help number on the email. The person on the other end of the line asked for her bank account information and made her believe she would get her money back. Instead, she lost $600 to a scammer.

Last year, consumers of all ages were scammed out of $8.8 billion. And older adults lost the most money compared to other age groups, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

While everyone wants to protect their parents and grandparents from scammers, sometimes these conversations can be complicated to navigate.

“We encourage people to think in multigenerational approaches. Everyone is getting scammed, it’s just a different way that scammers go after you,” said Genevieve Waterman from the National Council on Aging.

From having a lot of empathy to knowing how to report a scam, experts shared their recommendations for talking about scams:

KNOW WHICH SCAMS COMMONLY TARGET OLDER PEOPLE

Knowing which scams are most commonly used to target older people can help.

Two of the most common are the “grandparent” scam and romance scams, said Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention at AARP.

The grandparent scam is when someone gets a phone call from a person impersonating a grandchild and asking for money to get them out of trouble. The first step to avoid this is to call other family members before taking any action, the FTC recommends.

When it comes to romance scams, the FTC reported that people lost $1.3 billion in 2022. Scammers usually contact people through social media and then move the conversation to other messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Google Chat.

“A lot of older adults are now going into the online dating world, they’re making a lot of online conversations, having a lot of dates, but that leads them to scammers who are then convincing them to give them money and send it overseas,” Waterman said.

What starts as a simple conversation turns into a sudden romantic connection. But then the person asks for money because something happened in their lives and they need help. According to the FTC, common lies by scammers include “I or someone close to me is sick, hurt, or in jail” and “I can teach you how to invest.”

Other common scams are investment scams, tech support scams, and impersonation scams. You can read more about these on the FTC’s website.

HAVE CONSTANT CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SCAMS

One of the best ways to raise awareness about scams is to talk to each other about them. To keep your older family members safe, Waterman recommends that families talk about scams more often in their day-to-day lives.

“I love the idea of sitting around the table and talking about (scams) and making it more common,” Waterman said.

Goldstein said his mom knows how to use technology fairly well and they’ve had many conversations about email scams. However, she had never encountered the type of scam she was targeted by over the summer.

Because she felt a sense of urgency, she didn’t contact her son before calling the scammer. Goldstein believes that could have prevented her from losing money.

It’s a common practice for scammers to make victims feel like they need to act right away, which makes them more vulnerable to falling for a story that might not seem plausible if they weren’t under pressure. If you’re having a conversation about scams with your family members, it’s important to highlight the rushing aspect of scam practices.

INFORM, DON’T IMPOSE

When you are navigating complicated conversations, it’s better to take an informative approach rather than an authoritative tone. Because your parents or grandparents have a lot of expertise in other life topics, if you approach a conversation by imposing your ideas, it might not have the best effect.

When Stokes has conversations with her mom about scams, she approaches the conversation by saying that she heard about a new type of scam and asks questions such as “What do you think about this?” instead of using language like “Hey mom, there’s this scam, don’t fall for it.”

Waterman also recommends that you have conversations as a family, including younger members of your family, and make sure you make it clear that scams target everyone regardless of age.

“It’s about staying vigilant together as a family unit and not to challenge that older adult but just to explain that (scams) are becoming more sophisticated,” Waterman said.

If you’re looking for guides to avoid scams for older adults, you can find a variety of them on the National Council on Aging’s website.

BE EMPATHETIC IF THEY FALL FOR A SCAM

If your family member has already lost money to a scam, Stokes recommends that you approach the conversation with a lot of empathy.

“We tend to blame the victim,” Stokes said. “When you are faced with another adult in your life who has experienced a scam loss, understand that it’s a crime.”

Stokes encourages people to think about scammers as organized groups with many resources, rather than a random person calling from their mom’s basement. Stokes says that people should think of these crimes at the same level as others and therefore have empathy for the victims.

DISCUSS A PLAN IN CASE THEY ENCOUNTER A SCAMMER

A few days after the scam took place, Goldstein’s mom told him about it.

“She was really unhappy and I’m like ‘Mom, why didn’t you call me?’” said Goldstein, who felt frustrated by the situation.

Part of Goldstein’s frustration came from the fact that he had a system with his mom where she would call him if she ever felt like something was wrong. However, he also felt bad for his mom because she was embarrassed that she was a victim.

While being online is now part of most people’s lives, older adults have a harder time adapting to some aspects of the internet, which can make them more vulnerable, Waterman said.

“Older adults have been thrown into the virtual world during COVID without any digital literacy training or navigation in general,” Waterman said.

To combat the anxiety and provide information about scams, the AARP has a Fraud Watch Network Helpline. This helpline guides people worried about being scammed or emotional support for those who have experienced fraud.

TEACH FAMILY MEMBERS HOW TO REPORT A SCAM

If you or a family member is a victim of a scam, it’s good practice to report it. You can report a scam on the FTC’s website.

___

The Associated Press receives support from Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and explanatory reporting to improve financial literacy. The independent foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. The AP is solely responsible for its journalism.

Lifestyle

A second-floor balcony at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida, on Wednesday, July 17, ...

Associated Press

Ernest Hemingway fans celebrate the author’s 125th birthday in his beloved Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Ernest Hemingway spent the 1930s in Key West, Florida, and more than six decades after his death, fans, scholars and relatives continue to congregate on the island city to celebrate the author’s award-winning novels and adventure-filled life. Hemingway Days started in 1981 with a short-story competition and a look-alike contest. […]

19 hours ago

This photo provided by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows the Bissell Steam Shot Handhel...

Associated Press

Over 3 million steam cleaners are under recall because they can spew hot water and cause burns

NEW YORK (AP) — Some 3.3 million steam cleaners are being recalled across North America due to a burn hazard that has resulted in consumers reporting more than 150 injuries. Select models of Bissell-branded “Steam Shot Handheld Steam Cleaners” can spew hot water or steam while the products are in use or being heated up, […]

3 days ago

FILE - In this image provided by KFOR-TV, a heavily damaged vehicle is seen off a road in Tishoming...

Associated Press

After crash that killed 6 teens, NTSB chief says people underestimate marijuana’s impact on drivers

DETROIT (AP) — A horrific crash that killed six high school girls in Oklahoma two years ago has the head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board urging parents to warn teenagers about the risk of driving after using marijuana. Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy made the appeal to parents Thursday as her agency released the final […]

3 days ago

Residents walk through the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP P...

Associated Press

The uncertainty that plagues life in crisis-ridden Venezuela is also wreaking havoc on relationships

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Victoria Estevez finally met someone who saw past her shyness. They spent two months learning about their likes and dislikes, texting about their families and friends, and walking around their hometowns on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. On a trip to the capital in December, they held each other for the first time. […]

4 days ago

Gracie Wiener poses for a photo with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, W...

Associated Press

Historic utility AND high fashion. 80-year-old LL Bean staple finds a new audience as a trendy bag

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — L.L. Bean created it 80 years ago to haul heavy blocks of ice. Now it’s a must-have summer fashion accessory. The simple, sturdy canvas bag called the Boat and Tote is having an extended moment 80 years after its introduction, thanks to a social media trend in which they’re monogrammed with […]

4 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Trump’s escape from disaster by mere inches reveals a tiny margin with seismic impact

NEW YORK (AP) — Jarring, chaotic and sudden, the bullet whizzed toward the stage where former President Donald Trump stood behind a podium speaking. In its wake: the potential for a horrifying and tragic chapter in American history. But the Republican presidential candidate had a narrow escape — mere inches, possibly less — in Saturday’s […]

6 days ago

How to talk to older people in your life about scams