Security Tips

How to Prevent and Report Scams Targeting Older Adults

From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Scammers use lots of different tactics — stories about grandchildren in distress, million-dollar prizes, a romantic future, or a business deal — to try to steal peoples’ money. Scammers may demand payment by wire transfers, gift cards, and cryptocurrency — methods that transfer funds quickly and anonymously.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade have partnered together to help older adults and their families and friends know what to do if someone demands payment by these methods, and where to report fraud.

Tips for protecting against scams and fraud

  • Don’t wire money. Wiring money is like sending cash. Once you send it, you usually can’t get it back. Don’t wire money even if someone sends you a check, tells you to deposit it, and wire some of the money back to them. That’s a fake check scam, and the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew and sent. That may also be a money mule scam that will involve you in moving stolen money.
  • Don’t pay with a gift card. Gift cards are for gifts. As soon as you tell someone the numbers on the back of the gift card, they get control of the card, and your money is gone forever. No legitimate business or government agency will insist that you pay with a gift card.
  • Don’t pay with cryptocurrency. If someone requires you to pay for something with Bitcoin, Ether, or some other type of cryptocurrency, they’re probably a scammer. Cryptocurrency payments don’t come with legal protections. If you pay with cryptocurrency, you usually can’t get your money back unless the person you paid sends it back.
  • Don’t give anyone access to your online banking. If you do, scammers may transfer money between your accounts and then try to make you believe the transfer is actually an errant refund that you need to return. If you do send funds to them, you probably won’t be able to get them back.
  • Don’t be intimidated. If someone tells you to lie or hide the circumstances of a transaction from your friends, family or your bank, they don’t have your best interests in mind. They know that if you tell someone what’s happening, they’ll be found out and ruin their scheme. Talk to a family member or your Washington Trust Banker before making large financial decisions or sending money to anyone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
  • Report fraud to the FTC. If you’re contacted by someone telling you to pay or send money using these methods, please tell the FTC about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The information you share can help protect your community from fraud, scams, and bad business practices.

If you or someone close to you may have been a victim of fraud, a Washington Trust banker can help. Call us at 800-475-2265 or visit your local Washington Trust branch.

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For more information or to speak with one of our trusted advisors about your unique financial needs, contact us at 800-465-2265 or submit an online form.

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