Guest post by SafeSeniors

Imposter scammers lie about who they are in order to trick you into giving them money or to provide them with sensitive information. Here are some common scams, what to watch for, and what to do.

Romance Scams

The imposter will pretend to be interested in you romantically. They’ll use a fake photo of an attractive person and act as though they have a lot in common with you in order to get your interest; connect with you through social media sites like Facebook or through dating sites; and learn as much as they can about you through your profile in order to know the right things to say to gain your trust.

Red Flags:

  • Declarations of love or great affection after just a short time.
  • They ask you to start communicating by text or your personal email, away from original site you met them on.
  • Their online profile might not match everything they say.
  • They offer various excuses for why they can’t show you more photos of themselves.
  • Their messages are poorly written, inconsistent, or sometimes vague.
  • After gaining your trust, they start telling you stories of bad luck or medical illnesses.
  • They indirectly or directly ask for money, gift cards, or funds to pay credit cards.
  • They delay meeting in person or talking on video chat; when you do arrange to meet, they cancel or postpone due to some emergency.

What to do:

  • DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY OR CALL THEM WITH GIFT CARD NUMBERS.
  • Check the privacy settings on your social media so that you are not sharing personal information on your public profile.
  • Be very cautious in accepting friend requests.
  • Call Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or your local law enforcement agency for help. You can also report it to the Michigan Attorney General at 877-765-8388.

Grandchild or Friend “In Trouble” Scams:

The imposter will pretend to be your grandchild, other family member, or a friend. They’ll tell you a story about how they were in an accident, are in jail, or are stuck in a foreign country and that they desperately and quickly need your help. They may have researched social media to find out personal details, like the fact that your granddaughter calls you Papa and attends a certain college, or that your friend is traveling in Mexico. They will play on your emotions with urgency and secrecy. “I don’t want to spend the night in jail.” “Please don’t tell mom and dad!”. They may call in the middle of the night to increase the feeling of urgency and catch you when you are not thinking as clearly.

Red Flags:

  • Their voice is muffled or they say that they sound funny because of something that happened – “the accident broke my nose.”
  • You know that your grandchild, family member or friend is not traveling.
  • They ask for a significant amount of money to “cover court costs” or “pay my bail” or “hire a lawyer.”
  • They call you by a name you don’t use (like grandma instead of nana).

What to do:

  • DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY OR CALL THEM WITH GIFT CARD NUMBERS.
  • Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a caller says, “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, instead let the caller explain who he/she is. Ask a simple question that your grandchild/friend would know like their middle name or what gift you gave them for Christmas.
  • Call a family member or mutual friend. Even though the scammer will beg you to keep this a secret, discuss the situation with someone and chances are you will find that your grandchild/friend is safe at home.
  • Call Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or your local law enforcement agency for help. You can also report it to the Michigan Attorney General at 877-765-8388.

Government / Financial Institution / Business Scams

The imposter will pretend to be:

  • a government agency like the IRS, Medicare, or Social Security Administration.
  • from your bank or another financial institution.
  • a legitimate business such as Best Buy, PayPal or other well-known companies.

They may give you an official sounding case number, badge ID number, or order number. If they call, the caller ID may even show the name of where they say they are calling from. They may try to make you feel very anxious that something is wrong with your accounts, that you are going to be arrested, or that you ordered something you know you didn’t order.

Red Flags:

  • A government agency or your bank/financial institution will not call, text, or email you and ask for personal and confidential information over the phone or through a link in an email or text.
  • A government agency will not try to frighten you into acting with urgency, or to have you use gift cards to “pay fees”; your bank or financial institution will not try to cause you to panic about your accounts being in danger.
  • Emails from companies will have a strange return email address and may have spelling or grammatical errors.

What to do:

  • DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY OR CALL THEM WITH GIFT CARD NUMBERS.
  • DO NOT GIVE THEM PERSONAL INFORMATION OR ACCOUNT NUMBERS.
  • If you suspect a phone scam, hang up. Even better – let unknown numbers go to voice mail; a legitimate caller will leave a message.
  • Call Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or your local law enforcement agency for help. You can also report it to the Michigan Attorney General at 877-765-8388.
  • Hang up and call the local branch of your bank or financial institution to discuss.

Sweepstakes Scams

The imposter will pretend to be from a sweepstakes company. They’ll tell you that you’ve won a large amount of money or a big prize.

Red Flags:

  • You didn’t enter a sweepstakes or contest.
  • They say that you need to send money to “cover the taxes” or “claim your prize”.

What to do:

  • DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY OR CALL THEM WITH GIFT CARD NUMBERS.
  • If you suspect a phone scam, hang up. Even better – let unknown numbers go to voice mail; a legitimate caller will leave a message.
  • Call Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911 or your local law enforcement agency for help. You can also report it to the Michigan Attorney General at 877-765-8388.

Remember to watch out for family and friends. Ask questions if they tell you about a new romance that started online, a strange phone call, a suspicious sounding email, or a huge windfall.

To learn more about imposter scams and various types of abuse, neglect and exploitation, visit https://safeseniors.info/outreach-materials-and-presentations/


About the Author

Safe Seniors Logo

SafeSeniors is on of the AgeWell Services of West Michigan programs which works to identify, advocate, and seek justice for adult victims of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation within Muskegon, Ottawa, and Oceana counties of Michigan. We will occasionally share posts on this blog from SafeSeniors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.