Senior citizens are more vulnerable to phone scams than younger Vermonters.  A recent article in AARP magazine highlights how scammers are successfully using fear as the motivating factor to scam people.  They quote a social psychologist in the article who states that, “The mind is hardwired to react more strongly to negative than to positive things.  When a scammer calls to inform you that there is a crisis or major problem, your mind automatically goes into high gear, seeking a solution.  So when this person tells you the problem can be solved with one or two easy steps, that sweeps you along.”

I continually remind my 90-something mother and mother-in-law to just say no to scammers.  In particular, my mother tends to stay on the phone too long, if only because she likes to talk a lot.  The article points out the following scams that we should be especially aware of:

The fake utility company – You’re behind on your bill and you’ll lose power if you don’t provide cash now.

The Social Security imposter – Your Social Security number has been used in crimes, and you are going to be arrested, unless…

The dreaded computer virus – You’re about to lose all of your information and photos, and only we can fix the problem.

DNA cancer screening – People like you have died because they didn’t have the DNA test we’re offering.

Missed jury duty – There is a warrant for your arrest because you didn’t show up for a jury duty assignment.

The IRS warrant – You made criminal mistakes in your past tax filings and will be arrested shortly.

For all the scams noted above, the scammers are looking for your credit card number, Social Security number, sometimes gift cards, and other ways they can tap into your financial resources.  My reminder to my mother and mother-in-law is always the same:  Please always say no and talk to me first before you agree to anything.  You should be the one initiating a phone call for any of these concerns, nobody should be calling you about them out of the blue.