As more of us use social media as an investment tool, scammers are coming up with innovative ways to separate us from our money, and some of these scams target seniors directly. How can you avoid becoming a victim of fraud? The first step is to exercise the same kind of caution you would if a stranger asked you for money.
Deals that sound too good to be true usually are. Legitimate investment offers rarely require an immediate decision. Just as you likely would be skeptical of door to door sales, unsolicited offers over the internet should prompt caution. Some scams target affinity groups while other hucksters may play fast and loose with the truth when claiming an arrangement is endorsed by or benefits a well known affinity group or charity.
To keep from sharing personal information that might prove useful to perpetrate identity theft, it’s important to manage your profile and privacy settings wisely on sites like Facebook. Exhibiting healthy skepticism toward unfamiliar credentials can help safeguard your money. For instance, to become Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, I had to pass a full day exam and meet stringent requirements regarding ethics, malpractice, continuing legal education, and experience with elder and special needs law, but some fancy sounding titles can be obtained over the internet just by paying a fee.
Your strongest defense against becoming a victim of fraud is your own common sense. Ask questions until you are sure you understand an offer, and it’s worth repeating… if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To bolster your defenses further, see the Securities and Exchange Commission’s bulletin Social Media and Investing Tips for Seniors at http://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts/social_media_seniors.pdf
The internet can be a wonderful tool, but like most other facets of life, it’s important to exercise common sense.