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  • Writer's pictureSaeed

Scam callers target the elderly

Updated: Apr 10

My flight to Las Vegas for a consumer electronics convention made a stop in Dallas. When I stepped off the plane, I checked my messages to ensure there were no pressing issues from work or my children. There were no messages from work, however, I did notice a voice mail from a number I did not recognize. The voice message was from a man with a confident and concerned voice who claimed to be from the IRS. The individual was convincing; he introduced himself and stated that he was phoning from Washington, DC. He informed me that I owed back taxes and that I needed to pay them as soon as possible since the police were on their way to my house to arrest me. Furthermore, the police have notified the immigration office, and I am likely to be deported. He said I just had around 10 minutes before cops arrived and detained me. However, if I return his voice call immediately, he will be able to stop the cops.

Seniors are being targeted by phone scammers

Even though I have been a U.S. citizen for over 40 years, the prospect of deportation scared me at first. My initial thought was, "Where would I go? I've been here for over 40 years and have no life outside of the United States." Then I became irritated because I had been paying my taxes all along, and obviously, even if I had made a mistake in my taxes, why has it gotten so far that the police are involved? There had to be an explanation, which jolted me back to reality, and I started googling the scenario on my phone, discovering that there had been numerous similar prank calls. That is when I called my wife, explained the voice message, and we both laughed nervously.

Consumer scamming is the activity of duping customers into purchasing fraudulent, faulty, or nonexistent goods or services. Scammers use manipulation and people's vulnerabilities and emotions to obtain money or personal information. In my case, I consider myself fortunate to have missed the man's phone call and was listening to the voice message, allowing me time to assess the issue. Most victims are affected in real time, making it almost impossible for them to separate their emotions and remain rational.

Consumer fraud is not a new trend and has been around for decades. You may have heard of Clark Stanley, the Rattlesnake King, a snake oil salesman in 1800s. He toured the country, peddling bogus and dangerous treatments for a variety of diseases. Since then, consumer scammers have become more sophisticated, employing phone calls, social media, numerous mobile apps, and recently using AI technology. It's amazing that, despite a lot of intelligent people working really hard, it can take many years to incorporate new technologies into new products. But criminals can use the technology far more quickly to trick and steal from victims. I believe AI technology will be a major game changer for scammers, greatly increasing consumer fraud.

  • AI can generate synthetic voices that sound just like familiar or trusted people, such as relatives, friends, or authorities, and use them to impersonate or manipulate victims.

  • AI can use speech augmentation, automation, and adaptation to make scam calls more convincing, efficient, and diverse, and to avoid detection or recognition by humans or anti-fraud systems.

  • AI can exploit current events and trends, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or cryptocurrency to create more relevant and appealing scam scenarios and scripts.

Unfortunately, elders are more vulnerable to scam calls because of several factors that may affect their ability to detect and avoid fraud. Some of these factors include:

  • Cognitive decline: Elders may have impaired memory, judgment, and decision-making skills due to aging, dementia, or other conditions that affect their brain function.

  • Social isolation: Elders may have fewer social contacts and support networks that can help them identify and report scam calls. They may also feel lonely and seek companionship from strangers who may exploit them.

  • Emotional vulnerability: Elders may be more susceptible to emotional manipulation and persuasion techniques that scammers use, such as fear, guilt, sympathy, or flattery. They may also have lower self-esteem and confidence that can make them doubt their own instincts.

  • Generational and cultural factors: Elders may be more trusting, polite, and respectful of authority figures, such as government officials, law enforcement, or religious leaders, who may impersonate scammers. They may also be less familiar with technology, such as caller ID, robocalls, or voice phishing, that scammers use to deceive them.

Furthermore, elders are more likely to be at home and able to answer phone calls and more inclined to chat to a stranger because they may be lonely. This increases the likelihood of elders becoming victims of consumer scams.

To identify and stop scam calls, the government, telecommunication, social media, and financial institutions need to work together to implement effective measures.

  • Enforcing stricter laws and regulations against illegal robocalls and fraudsters and imposing higher fines and penalties for violations.

  • Developing and deploying more advanced and secure technologies to identify, block, and trace scam calls, and to protect consumers’ personal and financial information.

  • Educating and empowering consumers to recognize and report scam calls, and to use available tools and resources to prevent and avoid them.

  • Social media companies must be more diligent in spotting fake accounts.

  • and financial institutions must collaborate with the government to include triggers in their financial systems to detect and require further confirmation for money transactions that appear to be fraudulent.

Furthermore, because Google and Apple control phone operating systems, I believe they should collaborate with third-party companies such as SimpliTend and others to develop methods for blocking unsolicited calls. Our smartphones contain the necessary information to detect and prevent spam or unwanted calls.

SimpliTend is doing their share in reducing and stopping unwanted calls for the seniors. We believe seniors and the elderly are among the most susceptible demographics that scam callers target. As indicated above, they are more likely to fall for scams and can be easily confused by a high volume of unwanted calls.

SimpliTend senior and caregiver mobile app have implemented several features specifically to help seniors:

SimpliTend caregiver dashboard

Limited contact list: Most seniors have

accumulated a large number of contacts on their phone over the years. This may make it more difficult for elders to navigate this lengthy list and readily connect with their loved ones. SimpliTend enables seniors to construct a small list of family and friend contacts (up to 10) to utilize on a daily basis. The SimpliTend app displays the names and relationships of contacts, which may aid seniors with memory impairment. On Android smartphones, seniors can only receive calls from the ten contacts on the SimpliTend app. All other calls from the original phone contact list, as well as unknown calls, are blocked, resulting in less spam, robocalls, and unsolicited phone calls.

This feature operates slightly differently on iPhone due to differences between the IOS and Android operating systems. The iPhone's SimpliTend senior app still allows seniors to create a short list of family and friend contacts. However, spam and unwanted calls are not blocked.

Chat with caregiver: The SimpliTend app provides a unique chat functionality on the senior's home dashboard that is directly connected to the caregiver, allowing the senior to communicate with the caregiver with the press of a button. The intent of this feature is for seniors to be able to quickly reach out to their caregivers in case of an emergency.

Message of the day:  The SimpliTend senior and caregiver mobile app is a comprehensive application designed specifically to support our seniors and caregivers. SimpliTend has assembled a selection of public articles that focus on topics pertinent to seniors and caregivers. The caregiver can choose to read the daily article or read one from the publications in SimpliTend's database. This feature goal is to provide information about elder health and safety issues as well as self-care strategies for caregivers.


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