The holidays have arrived. And, unfortunately, so have the holiday scammers. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to scams, so caregivers need to be informed and alert.
The newest alarming scams involve scammers posing as Amazon.
“People really need to be wary about the different types of scams that are out there,” Mark Fetterhoff with AARP Elderwatch told The Gazette (Colorado), “where the scammers are posing as retailers, like Amazon.”
Amazon imposter scams: Common, convincing and accelerating in frequency
Amazon scams are nothing new; hundreds have already fallen victim to past ploys. Amazon scammers are convincing and very good at what they do, so it’s important to know the facts. Fetterhoff said the most recent scammers are using two primary tactics: phone and email.
Amazon imposter phone scams
Amazon phone scams are quite common and easy to fall for, Fetterhoff explained: “One way is someone might get an unsolicited phone call saying that they’re with Amazon and that person has a problem with their account. You shouldn’t trust an unsolicited call from someone saying they’re with Amazon. Amazon is not making outbound calls.”
Amazon imposter email scams
Other Amazon scams are coming through email, which look similar to a normal Amazon email so many people are used to seeing. “Oftentimes, those emails say that a person has purchased a large ticket item, like a TV or a phone, and they’re expected to pay for it,” Ferrerhoff said. “The reality is that it’s just a spoofed email that they are trying to phish and get you to respond.”
What to do if “Amazon” contacts you in a suspicious manner
Regardless of how you’re approached, if you or your loved one are contacted by someone who claims they’re Amazon, immediately terminate the conversation—even if it means hanging up on them.
“The most important thing is disengage with these people if they’re trying to get a hold of you,” said Fetterhoff. “Hang up on anyone that calls and says they’re with Amazon, delete any calls or text messages that look suspicious that say they are coming from Amazon.”
Other ways to protect yourself and your loved one from all scammers
Ensure you and your loved one are protected from scammers of all types by following a few helpful tips:
- Opt-in for two-step authentication: It’s surprisingly (and frightfully) easy for scammers to get their hands on usernames and passwords. Two-step authentication secures your account by requiring more than just your username and password. The system will send you a one-time code to your email or phone. Never share these authentication or access codes with anyone. The company will never ask you for them; if somebody does, you can assume they’re a scammer.
- Be leary of links in emails or text messages: Scammers will insert links that bait you to click on them out of fear or curiosity. Remember, your bank, credit card, the IRS, FedEx, Amazon, Apple, Walmart, etc., will never email you links to click, and they’ll never ask you for your login or password. If you become suspicious, simply call the party in question before clicking the link.
- Be suspicious of phone calls from people posing as your bank, the Social Security Administration, the IRS, your health insurer, Amazon, etc. If you weren’t expecting the call, it’s likely a scammer; don’t provide any personal information, not even your name. Again, simply call the party using a trusted phone number and ask if they’re trying to reach you.
- Don’t trust the caller ID: Scammers can easily spoof their phone numbers to make it appear as a local number or a known business on your caller ID.
Older adults are vulnerable in so many ways already. Unfortunately, they’re also vulnerable to elder scams. Some experts think older adults are targeted due to their tendency to be trusting and polite. Also, although older adults tend to lack experience and skills using technology, their usage of online devices is increasing: They have social media accounts, surf the Web, and of course, use smartphones.
Unlike their younger counterparts, older adults may be less capable of detecting and side-stepping cyber threats. They often lack the cyber know-how to protect their information and identify attacks and fraudulent attempts.
Thankfully, being alert, aware and informed will go a long way in helping you protect yourself and your loved one from scams. Doing so will allow you to enjoy the upcoming holidays and stay safe at the same time.