An important part of caring for your elderly parents or other loved ones is helping them understand some risks of social media. Whether you are caring for your aging parents long distance or locally, the risks are the same.
Few persons who use social media realize that criminals are looking at publicly available information on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Criminals get names, locations, schools attended, photos and other information to help them convince others that they are in fact the social media user. Sometimes, criminals find an unsuspecting relative of the social media user, like your elderly parent, and call him or her pretending to be a grandchild or perhaps a relative serving in the military on leave.
What may happen next is that the criminal makes up a story and tells your elderly parent that his or her grandchild had a car accident, was arrested and is in jail or needs emergency medical treatment and money to pay for the emergency. The criminal asks your parent to wire a large sum of money right away, maybe more than once, and pleads with the elderly person not to tell you about the request for money. Criminals may call late at night or early in the morning when some people are not thinking clearly.
A variation of the scheme is that the criminal will pretend to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer or a doctor at a hospital. The criminal may pretend to be the grandchild and then hand the phone to an accomplice who asks for the money.
To lessen the risk of your elderly parent from becoming the victim of a social media site scam, here are some points to discuss with your parent:
- Your parent should not act immediately if he or she gets a call in which the caller asks for money. Your parent should not let fear or emotion take the place of good common sense.
- The caller should be asked questions by your parent that would be difficult for the caller to answer unless the caller is actually a family member.
- Your parent should call you to determine where the grandchild or other relative is. For example, is the grandchild traveling?
- Your parent should never wire money or buy a prepaid credit card to pay for the fake emergency until you confirm the caller is really a family member. If you are unavailable, suggest that your parent call a trusted relative, lawyer or accountant and ask for advice before taking any action.
- If you realize that your elderly parent has been defrauded, you should call law enforcement as well as your parent’s bank, credit card companies and brokerage firms right away.
Short of limiting your parent’s access to money, having an informative conversation with him or her may be your best defense to avoiding social media fraud.
Source: Teague Marquess & Associates
While you may think that a social media scam is unlikely, we know of several recent cases in which these scams have occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.