Hi there! I used to work with elders and their families. In my time, I saw a lot of scams, fraud, and other devious means of pilfering money. I wanted to write a short guide for anyone who might have a bit of knowledge about this stuff, but don’t know where to begin with helping a loved one.
First and foremost, I want to thank you for being the one to bear the weight of helping with this. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and can sometimes cause other problems down the road. You are not powerless, and there are things you can do to help.
The very first step is to tell the person you are helping that you are here to help. Getting scammed, especially out of a lot of money, is a very frightening experience. It’s not something to chastise or guilt trip someone about, especially if they’re in a panic already. Calmly let them know that you are here to listen and lend a hand, and that they aren’t alone.
The next step is identifying what actually happened. Ask your loved one what happened in their own words. Pay attention to the ways they were communicated with, the way that goods & services were transferred, what was exchanged, and when it happened. Write these things down while they are fresh in your memory, so that you can refer to them later.
After you establish a timeline, determine whether or not the person you are helping has the resources they need for daily life. It can be incredibly embarrassing for an elder or a loved one to admit that something like this happened to them, and it’s important to make sure that they have things like food and medicine, and won’t go without as a result of a scam.
Locking Things Down
The next steps are things that can be done in any situation, and are good to do while you dive into more specific actions.
Changing passwords is always a good thing to do when an incident like this happens. Determine what accounts they use (especially if they were used when communicating with the scammers), and change those passwords. If you need help picking a good password that they can remember, check out this article.
Lock Down Devices
The next steps you take depend on what specifically happened. I’m going to break it down into a few major categories, and have a short list for each.
If your loved one was involved in a financial scam, there are a few different things you can do. Make sure that you keep track of who you called, when, and what information was shared.
- If gift cards were involved, notify the store or website that the gift cards were purchased on. Provide them with dates, times, and amounts. Many retailers are aware of gift card related scams, and have procedures in place to address them. Giving them this information will help stop the flow of illicit funds, and can create a paper trail for later.
- Call the bank that they use and explain the situation to them. If their bank account was specifically involved in the fraud, provide them with dates, times, and amounts involved so that the bank can monitor for future activity and possibly refund you. The same goes for credit cards with fraudulent purchases.
- Lastly, file a police report with the above information. Give them everything you’ve gathered and explain the situation. Depending on the nature of the what happened, they may be able to do some follow up for you if you are trying to recover money from banks or retailers.
Health Insurance / Medicare
Health Insurance scams are a huge issue. There are many bogus services that try and target elders. Aside from the calls you should make for financial scams (as listed above), there are some other key steps to take if you suspect fraudulent charges on insurance and medicare.
- Call the insurance provider and inform them of the charges.
- You can also provide additional information by looking up the organization here.
- Many scams change their names and provider info from time to time, and there are internal divisions at insurance providers that keep tabs on all of these.
- Give them as much information as you can about the service, what charges they incurred, and other details about working with them.
Tech Support Scams
Tech Support scams are incredibly common. They rely on scare tactics to get their victims to install their products and use their services. The steps to take here can be a bit more nuanced than the others. Tech support scammers use a variety of methods depending on their goals.
After locking things down and making calls for financial matters (as listed above), there are some other things you can do.
- Check to see what software they installed on the computer.
- Look for any text files on the desktop that may have been typed in by the scammer. Look for any receipts either in email inbox or on the Desktop and/or Downloads folder. These can be clues as to what they may have installed.
- Run a malware scan on the computer. Tech Support scams largely target Windows users, so you can run whatever malware scanners you like to see if anything unsavory was installed.
- Personally, I usually tend to use Windows Defender (pre-installed on Windows), Malwarebytes, and CCleaner, because they’re free and easy to install.
- Make sure you keep track of any charges that were made and report them to the bank. They may continue to attempt to charge later on down the road.
- If you can, determine what they used to remotely access their computer (if they did). Some companies (like LogMeIn), will actually shut down the scam call centers’ login information and effectively shut down the scam for a little bit if you can provide them with the access token they gave you. It’s definitely worth it to try and figure it out. Look at browser history.
- Finally, tell your loved one that no legitimate tech company will ever call you to tell you that they detected a problem on their computer.
That’s my short guide to what to do when an elder gets scammed. I will probably add more things if people have suggestions. Feel free to tweet at me, or leave a comment if you have anything else to share.