When a bully appears on the playground he is often met with the phrase, “Go pick on someone your own size.” I find it interesting that the expression doesn’t find any fault with picking on someone. It only focuses on the fairness of the target. Children seem to naturally understand fairness.
Adults understand fairness too. For this reason, crimes against someone who is not able to defend themselves can bring a harsher punishment. This is the case with many crimes against the elderly. Some criminals specifically target senior citizens because our bodies and often minds are known to decline with advanced age. I recently had a senior share a sad story with me that I will briefly recount here in hopes someone else might be spared a similar loss. This was a classic scam, with so many red flags.
A stranger called and told the victim they represented a well-known national prize firm, whose contests the man had actually entered many times. The caller notified him he had won several million dollars. He discussed the process by which the money would be transferred but said it would have to wait until the man pre-paid the taxes owed on the winnings. The scammer built rapport by joking about how much everyone hates the IRS. The man agreed to provide the caller his banking information to facilitate the tax payment and speed up the process of paying out the winnings. The scammer advised him not to let word out about his winnings since people might want to take advantage of his new wealth.
When asked why all the red flags didn’t create suspicion his response was, “Because he seemed very legitimate.” The victim actually was suspicious, but the charming personality of the scammer caused him to ignore his instincts. Let’s be clear. Scammers are experts at deception. Sounding legitimate is what allows them to scam people.
To help protect yourself from these types of scams, remember a few rules. If you really won something, a legitimate company will give you plenty of time to check them out. If you are being rushed, you are being scammed. Never give out personal financial or banking information. Prize companies are happy to write you a check. No legitimate company will ever ask you to pay taxes up front, or other fees to receive your prize.
Everyone thinks they would never fall for these scams, yet people fall for them every day. More often than not, senior citizens are the targets of these financial bullies who like to prey on people they perceive as vulnerable. It angers me so much which is why I continue to sound the alarm. If a stranger calls, never give out any personal information no matter how legitimate the person may sound. If need be, get a number and tell them your financial advisor will be calling them back. I would be happy to make that call for you.
Dan Wyson, CFP® is author of “The Gold Egg,” and “21 Financial Myths” and owner of Wyson Financial/Wealth Management 375 E. Riverside Dr. St. George, UT 84790 – 435-986-9525 – Securities and Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor