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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: Spammers and Scammers in 2014

January 6, 2014

Thank you to my readers for bearing with me as I took a two-week break to celebrate the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The time away from the blog was productive and allowed me to put a few things into perspective.  I hope that you were able to enjoy some time doing the things you love with the people you care about. Life is meant to be joyous.

Originally, I had another post planned for today, but recently a couple of events have turned my attention to the number of spammers and scammers vying for my personal and financial information. Senior citizens are often targeted so I decided this was a good topic of discussion for today’s post.

Here are a few reasons why this topic is on my mind:

  • Approximately six weeks ago a major vendor for many local businesses was hacked. This resulted in debit and credit card information falling into the wrong hands. Just about everyone in town was informed by their financial institutions that their cards had been compromised which led to a flurry of new cards being issued and PINs being changed in an effort to avoid fraudulent activity.
  • About that same time there was nationwide coverage here in the US about the hacking of Target and how the information of 40 million people had been compromised.
  • Then last week it hit close to home again when I received a letter in the mail from a so-called Credit Service offering me a $10,000 limit on a credit card. Supposedly I was already approved and only had to provide a signature.  Warning bells were going off in my head as I read the letter: 1) it was printed on cheap paper; 2) I had never heard of this credit service; and 3) they wanted a signature but no other information.
  • The following day I received a phone call from a heavily accented young lady telling me that I was eligible to have the interest rate reduced on my credit card.  Warning bells again because she introduced herself by name but did not identify which company she was calling from.  When I asked her what account she was calling about she stated my Visa card. When I asked her which one she said my Citibank Chase Visa card. I don’t have a Citibank or Chase card. When I asked her to give me the last four numbers of the card she was referencing she repeated my Citibank Chase card. When I asked her a second time to confirm the last four numbers she hung up on me.

No harm, no foul on the first item above. My financial institution noted that the charges against my debit card were not in my ordinary spending pattern and they occurred outside of the area where I live or have ever traveled. A simple phone call from the fraud unit confirmed that I had not moved, traveled, or changed my spending habits.

Luckily, I was not one of the 40 million people who used a credit card at Target so I also dodged that bullet.

The third item above from the “credit service” may have been legitimate, but I would never send my signature to an unsolicited business.

As for the fourth item I’ve never had a credit card company call me to offer a lower interest rate and given that when I asked for them to confirm the card number they were calling about the caller hung up it seems rather obvious to me that this was an effort to obtain information that would be used nefariously.

What do you think?

So, this is an easy topic to talk to your aging parents or elderly clients about. You’re not asking them to divulge information to you–instead you can share with them what I’ve shared with you and ask if they’ve ever had any similar calls. Then you can lead into a collaborative discussion on how to prevent fraudulent access to financial and personal accounts. Being reminded that we are all vulnerable to these attacks at any time is something to be taken seriously. I, for one, will be looking into protection with the various companies who provide services for protection from identity theft.

Do you have a similar story to share on this topic? Have you had a discussion with your aging parents about protecting their personal and financial information? How did it go? What can you share with us? I’d love to hear from you.

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