“Seniors are available because they tend to be retired, they’re home, they answer their phones and read their mail. So, some of the offers that come in aren’t necessarily more attractive to seniors, but they have the time to read it,” Jim Wright, managing director of programs at the National Crime Prevention Council, explains.
Fraudulent telemarketers use five basic techniques:
- Scarcity: The senior has been identified as the grand prizewinner, but if she doesn’t accept the prize immediately (and pay that “handling charge”) the runner-up will get the prize instead.
- Hype: The telemarketer screams and hollers about how excited he is the senior has won.
- Authority: The telemarketer passes the phone to his “boss,” so his target will know the offer is “legitimate.”
- Phantom Fixation: The prize is too good to pass up, and the targeted senior becomes fixated on it.
- Reciprocity: The telemarketer explains that she won’t receive her commission unless the senior accepts the prize and pays the handling fee. When the senior protests that he doesn’t have enough money to pay the fee, the scammer asks how much he can afford, and says she’ll accept that smaller amount, just because she’s so happy the senior has won the prize.
Wright says fraudsters will change from one persuasion tactic to another if necessary. “The theory is the longer we’re on the phone, we’re going to do business, legitimate or otherwise,” he says.
The NCPC (with Crime Dog McGruff as its spokesdog) has put together a short guide on senior fraud prevention. The guide features five ways to make unwanted telemarketers go away. Tape it by your loved one’s phone and he or she will always have a polite-but firm-comeback for unscrupulous come-ons. (Of course, the best way to get rid of someone you don’t want to talk to is to simply hang up.)
- Tip #1: Never give personal information, such as bank account or social security numbers, to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know you’ve reached the right agency.
Comeback:”I don’t give out personal information over the phone. I’ll contact the company directly.”
- Tip #2: Don’t believe it if the caller tells you to send money to cover the “handling charge” or to pay taxes.
Comeback:”I shouldn’t have to pay for something that’s free.”
- Tip #3: “Limited time offers” shouldn’t require you to make a decision on the spot.
Comeback:”I’ll think about it and call you back. What’s your number?”
- Tip #4: Be suspicious of anyone who tells you not to discuss the offer with someone else.
Comeback:”I’ll discuss it with my family and friends and get back to you.”
- Tip #5: If you don’t understand all the verbal details, ask for it in writing.
Comeback:”I can’t make a decision until I receive written information.”
The scammer will most likely keep trying to convince his intended victim, so it’s best to hang up after delivering the comeback line.
Fraudulent telemarketers may also use a senior’s forgetfulness against them. The scammer may tell her target she’s with a well-known charity, and the senior has forgotten to send a check for a pledge.
Read the full article for more information on Mail Fraud, Home Repair Fraud and how to fight back, visit http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/senior-fraud-prevention