Unfortunately scams and identity theft target older consumers more than any other demographic. Whether you’re a consumer yourself or you work with the senior population, you need to not just be aware, but be on the defense at all times. You will never regret being extra diligent.
One of the most common types of scams is what’s called “phishing”. This is where highly skilled con artists use various techniques to obtain information about a pending transaction (common in real estate) or other information they can use to obtain financial information. Sometimes this information is found by hacking into non-secure servers, other times it’s found by following what someone is saying on Facebook or other online forums. Regardless of how it’s obtained, both the senior consumer and the professional working with the senior consumer need to be advocates for their privacy.
Here are my tips to prevent becoming a victim of this type of fraud:
1.) NEVER provide personal information via email, always do this over the phone, or over a secure server on a website. If someone requests it from you in an email, call them. If you’re a professional working with consumers, never request this information be provided via email. If you do, you are putting your clients at unnecessary risk.
2.) NEVER wire or transfer money according to instructions you receive in an email – even if you have corresponded with this person. Fake email accounts look nearly identical to authentic ones and it can be very difficult to tell the difference. This is VERY important; don’t take the risk. Recently tens of thousands of dollars have been sent to scammers during real estate transactions because the consumer was being targeted and they did not verify any information over the phone or in person. ALWAYS speak with anyone who is asking you to wire money – preferably in person – and always use the phone number you already have for them, not a phone number sent in an email.
2.) NEVER follow a link that comes in an email to your bank account or other account that will have access to your private, personal financial information. This includes banks, credit cards, loans, PayPal, IRS, etc. This is one of the most common phishing scams. When you receive a phishing email, it will seem you are being alerted to various scenarios – possibly a fraudulent transaction, an overdrawn account, or another “urgent” situation. Everything looks legit; they will have your name and often more information. Most of the time these emails are scams! As soon as you go to the link provided, and enter your login and password, it’s been stolen. To prevent this, ALWAYS login directly from your internet browser by typing in the website URL directly as you already know it and use it. Don’t hesitate to call and ask the bank or other institution about the email (using the number you already have, again, don’t use information given to you in a potentially fraudulent email). All financial institutions want these reported. It’s how they are stopped.
4.) Whether a consumer or professional working with consumers, ALWAYS use secure hosting and servers with strong security. Password protect your wireless networks. Hackers are highly skilled – but you are your own first defense against them.
For more information about protecting yourself against identity theft, click here. You can never be too careful or diligent in protecting your personal details and assets.
Janis Layman is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist serving the Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds, and Shoreline areas of Washington. Contact Janis and learn if reverse mortgage is right for you.