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Tips and red flags for avoiding elder fraud.

From robocalls, to email phishing, to unscrupulous door-to-door salespeople, millions of Americans fall victim to scammers and con artists each year. Baby boomers and elder populations are at an even higher risk of being targeted since they’re more likely to own their home, have retirement savings and be home during the day. You can protect yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim of fraud by recognizing the warning signs and taking steps to protect yourself — and your finances.

Three common types of financial scams

Con artists will often try to appeal to a victim’s emotions with an offer that sounds too good to be true, or with an aggressive or threatening tone if the victim doesn’t comply with their request to provide personal information. Almost always, there is a sense of urgency to “act now.” Below are three of the most common ways a scammer might try to contact you.

1. Email:

A phishing email is designed to look like it’s from a well-known source, such as your credit card company or mortgage provider. The sender usually asks you to click on a malicious link to verify personal information, which the scammer then uses to access your account or open new accounts. To avoid becoming a victim, never open attachments or click on links in emails unless you’re certain of the sender.

Red flags: Be skeptical of emails that contain multiple misspelled words or address you as “dear customer” or “account holder” rather than by your name. When in doubt, look up the name and contact information for the actual business on your own and contact them directly.

2. Phone:

Popular phone scams involve callers claiming to be with the IRS and insisting that you owe money, a company stating that your computer has a virus, or even a caller informing you that you’ve won a major prize in a sweepstakes.

Red flags: These callers convey a sense of urgency and try to pressure you into providing personal financial information over the phone, such as a credit card or Social Security number. Make it a habit to never provide information over the phone unless you initiated the call and can verify the business.

3. Door-to-door:

Home improvement contractors coming to your door to offer free quotes for home repair services, as well as people requesting charity donations in person, are often legitimate sales tactics. But this is also a popular scam approach.

Red flags: Be wary of solicitors who are unusually friendly, contractors that ask for payment upfront or aggressive sales people who try to pressure you into a donation on the spot. Ask for written information about the business or charity so you can do your own research first and get back to them if you’re interested.

Stay alert: Tips to protect your personal information and prevent fraud

One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to become an informed consumer. Before considering a purchase or donating to a charity, it’s a good idea to research the company’s background, verify that they’re in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, and share your findings with friends and family.

In addition, follow these tips to protect your financial information:

  • Be skeptical of any unsolicited offers
  • Never agree to send money to claim a free prize
  • Be wary of any request to wire money
  • Regularly review receipts and bills, and check your credit report
  • Monitor your monthly bank and credit card statements regularly
  • Ensure that the security software on your computer and mobile phone is up-to-date
If you suspect you’ve become a victim of a scam, contact your bank or credit card company right away. Commerce Bank customers are encouraged to take advantage of security features to help prevent fraud, including online banking account and card alerts, cardholder security tools and Commerce’s ID Theft Services.

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