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Scammer v. 23.1

Call it Ocean’s 65+…instead of Ocean’s 8 or Ocean’s 11…but it doesn’t have a caste of Hollywood stars, and the number, 65+, is a reference to the prime target … of scammers.  Remember once upon a time that scammers targeted your mother or grandmother with a phone call posing as a young relative asking for financial help.  And then scammers jumped on the digital platform posing to be any number of people or institutions or your bank and more.  March 9 is “Slam the Scam Day.”

Evidently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a great target, because they’re now offering very concrete warnings about a veritable pandemic of scamming, many of them using SSA as their front.  And, of course, it’s not just one angle, it’s a host of pretenses scammers are using to separate your older loved ones from their money.  SSA warns of the 4 P’s that should serve as a warning:

  • Pretending to be a representative of the SSA, your loved one’s bank or credit card company in order to gain the target’s trust;
  • Problems or prizes are the bait scammers will set up the scam with a threat to your older loved one’s accounts, social security numbers or such;
  • Pressure is applied in the form of a required response now or in some limited time frame that doesn’t allow the target to corroborate or consider what’s really at stake; or
  • Payments that are required for the target’s security, standing or retirement benefits or so that some Medicare or Social Security benefit is not lost.

Any and all of these four P’s are vehicles used to coerce an older loved one to part with money or with secure information that will give the bad guys access to investments and accounts.  First, never trust a caller under these pretenses.  First, the Social Security Administration does not make calls.  Encourage your loved one to always ask for a toll free number to call back.  If any calls or emails fit the profiles of the 4 P’s your older loved one should go straight to the source.  They can call the SSA, they can reach out to their bank, they can call the help line of their credit card company.  Nothing should be done in the moment while sitting at the computer or when answering an inbound call or text or attempting to address an urgent demand that arrived in the mail.

Encourage your loved one to look for red flags.  Never click on a link…use the purported “legitimate name” and search for a link on line…don’t use one provided by the potential scammer.  Report the scam.  One of the hardest, but best, things we encouraged my mother-in-law to do some time ago was speak to a local network affiliate in an interview letting others know what was afoot.  She quickly overcame the embarrassment after the “thank yous” began flooding in from others in her community.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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