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Did you just find out that one of your elderly relatives lost all her money in her bank account after she responded to a link on a purported monetary grant sent to her by a friend via Facebook messenger?
We have all heard of such stories from our family and friends at some point in time. Our elderly loved ones may be especially vulnerable to such scams. Unlike the younger generation, they may not be as equipped to recognise obvious technological red flags. Our parents’ generation grew up in a more trusting era where the “kampung spirit” was prevalent, and hence they may be more inclined to trust others. Then, how do we protect our loved ones from such scams?
It is important to recognize the warning signs of fraud to be able to guard yourself and your loved ones from a scam.
Fraud Warning Signs
1. Scammers like to pose as figures of authority, impersonating the Government, banks, charities, reputable organisations, and even the police.
2. They will usually give the victim a sense of urgency, rushing him/her into making decisions.
3. Scammers may portray themselves as friendly or approachable to build the trust of their victims. This tactic may be especially useful towards the elderly who are feeling lonely.
4. An ambiguous answer is another sign of fraud. If the details shared throughout the whole conversation vary, it may be a big warning sign that the other party is not trustable.
5. Unusual payment requests are big warning signs as well. Reputable sources do not normally ask for large payments upfront.
Practical ways to protect your loved ones
1. Discuss with your parents the risks of financial exploitations.
Educate them on the warning signs of fraud and inform them of the basics of protecting themselves against such financial exploitations, like keeping their bank account numbers, codes, and passwords private, and shredding bills, junk mails, and receipts before discarding them.
2. Discourage business over the telephone.
When a caller calls in for any offers/proposals, encourage your parents to ask them to send in the relevant information in writing (eg. in an E-mail/letter).
3. Talk to the bank on how you can safeguard your loved ones’ accounts.
Many commercial banks are now allowing third-party monitoring so it may be an option to consider.
4. Encourage your parents to set up joint banking or investment accounts with you or your siblings as the co-signer.
This way, any transactions will have to go through you.
5. Visit your loved ones as frequently as possible.
One major factor that makes the elderly vulnerable to scams is isolation and loneliness. Therefore, visiting your parents regularly will allow you to keep in touch with their lives and prevent them from falling for such frauds.
6. When you visit your parents, be sure to look out for any evidence of a scam.
Take note of envelopes, missing checks from checkbooks, letters from the bank, or anything relevant that could be lying around.
Anybody can fall prey to a scam. If you suspect your loved ones are being scammed or would like to ask for some advice, call 1800-722-6688. This is a dedicated hotline maintained by the police and the National Crime Prevention Council for victims of scams in Singapore.
If your loved ones are confirmed to have been scammed, besides calling the hotline, do remember to file a police report and furnish them with any documents, screenshots, and online conversations so that a proper investigation can be conducted.