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Wise Living: Be prepared for scammers

Dear Wise Living,

Recently my mom received a phone call from the “IRS” stating that she owed back taxes and told her to immediately call a toll-free number and be prepared to give her social security number.

Needless to say, this was a very unsettling call for her.

Mom hung up on the caller.

What is a good plan for seniors who live alone and are tempted to answer any phone call?

– Leary about Scammers

Dear Leary,

Good for your mom for promptly hanging up and not engaging in any conversation with the phone scam.

It seems as though the two of you have had conversations about this which is a wise move. And, you are not alone.

None of us are sheltered from scammers’ attempts to obtain emails, financial accounts and other personal information.

Among the more common scammers, as you would suspect, is the telemarketer who is able to reach the senior, or really any of us, and fabricate an authoritarian role.

They will try just about anything to get the victim to volunteer information by offering free trials, prizes or any incentive to keep a person on the line.

As was the case for your mom, they will attempt to impersonate an authority figure representing the IRS, bank or credit card company or even a family member.

There are many forms of scamming that take place.

Let’s talk about a few of them.

Remember, any legitimate financial institution or large corporation or agency, and that includes the IRS will not call or ask for personal information over the phone.

IRS impostor scams

So-called IRS agents say that you owe taxes and demand that you pay immediately or face consequences such as jail time or hefty fines.

In many cases, they say that the IRS has already contacted you via mail or email and never heard back, hence creating urgency.

In some circumstances, they will instead say you are owed a tax refund.

In both scenarios, the goal is to obtain your social security number, credit card numbers or other financial information. Some will even try to initiate a money transfer.

Charitable organizations

This is one of the more disturbing kinds of scams as it takes advantage of the goodwill of others, particularly seniors, as they try to sell a worthy cause.

As with all scammers, one of their intentions is to steal the victim’s identity.

To make matters worse, charity scammers tend to ramp up their efforts after natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or fires.


By definition, phishing occurs on electronic communication.

The thief attempts to obtain personal information such as account numbers, usernames, passwords.

The best defense is a good offense when it comes to protecting yourself and your family against phishing.

Change your passwords often and check your accounts monthly for fraudulent activity.

Tony Naniot, financial advisor with Edward Jones, in De Pere, said he sees a growing concern looming, not only over seniors but adult consumers of all ages.

Naniot said he sees the creative tactics scammers are using have expanded as well.

He offers three practical steps that the consumer can implement to halt the advancement of a telemarketing scam.

The key is to be mindful of what is occurring and pay close attention to subtle signs and more obvious red flags.

• If you do speak with a telemarketer trying to confuse or persuade you, ask to call them back. Ask for their name, position and the best number to reach them. They will likely hang up promptly.

• Share this with someone you trust. Review what happened in case you do need to take further action.

• If anyone is making you feel pressured, then that is likely a scam of some kind. Trust your instincts.

AARP has a free hotline for seniors and their families with any questions, reports and concerns related to scams.
The toll-free number is 877-908-3360.

Check out AARP’s ElderWatch online, which is staffed by volunteers whose sole purpose is to assist older consumers in recognizing, refusing and reporting fraud and scams.

Be on guard, yet also be assured that there are many resources to combat scammers.

Dave Ferguson, MD., certified senior advisor, MD, NSCA-CPT is managing director of IKOR in the Greater Green Bay area. He provides advocacy and life care management services to seniors and individuals with disabilities. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about Ikor, visit ikormidwest.com.

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