No one wants to become the victim of a theft. But scammers are out there, looking for their next victims.

Privacy Expert Patrick Chavez talks about some scams that have been in the news lately, and what you can do to protect yourself.

The problem

Although anyone can become the victim of fraud, some scams specifically target older adults. And the numbers don’t tell the whole story: The Securities and Exchange Commission has cited a New York state study that found that for every documented case of older adult financial exploitation, another 44 went unreported.

Edward Jones is seeing an uptick in the following scams:

  • Romance gone bad – In this scenario, the thief uses social media or dating websites to start a relationship with the intended victim. Once the thief gains a level of trust, he or she will make up a reason for the victim to send money. The money is usually gone for good because thieves will ask a victim to use gift cards or prepaid money cards that can’t be traced. The scammer may also ask that funds be wired to a third party. Once the money is sent, it’s gone for good.
  • Losing rather than winning – In this scenario, the thief calls or emails the potential victim, claiming he or she has won a valuable prize or a windfall. But of course, there’s always a catch. The thief will ask for money to cover incidental expenses, such as taxes or shipping or processing fees, on the “winnings.” In the end, the prize either never shows up or is worth much less than the money paid to retrieve it.

Red flags

  • Be alert if someone asks you for money soon after you’ve met him or her – especially if you’ve only met online.
  • Remember that you should never need to send money to receive legitimate winnings.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Investigate before you send money. Scammers typically count on the fact that you’ll be too embarrassed to reach out for advice, but it never hurts to have someone else evaluate the situation. Talk to a trusted family member or your financial advisor if you’re unsure.
  • Protect your personal information. Don’t give out information about yourself over the phone, via email or over the internet unless you know the recipient is legitimate. Also, be mindful of the information you put on social media, which can be a treasure trove for would-be scammers.
  • Be wary if an offer comes with a sense of urgency. This is probably the biggest red flag. Thieves want you to act, without giving you time to think. If you’re feeling pressured, stop and consider the situation. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Important information:

This information is for educational and illustrative purposes only and should not be interpreted as specific investment advice. Investors should make investment decisions based on their unique investment objectives and financial situation.