Weekly Columns

Imagine getting a frantic phone call from your grandchild who is in need of your immediate help because they’ve been in an accident overseas and need you to send them money right away.  Of course you want to help them. While it may sound surprising, the best thing to do before reaching into your wallet is to call the relative in question. More often than not, that person is safe and sound and not in harm’s way.

Unfortunately, this case has become all too common and it’s not limited to the phone. Scammers are using a variety of methods and mediums, including the internet, to take advantage of seniors. Our office was recently contacted by an elderly Arkansan who asked us to help a U.S. soldier she befriended on the internet after she received a call that his plane crashed in Africa and he needed money. She sent him money but wanted to make sure he was safe so she reached out to us. A quick Google search revealed this is a common scam. The Army Criminal Investigation Command calls this a ‘romance scam’ and warned of this cyber-crime earlier this year.

While the methods are varied, the objectives are the same, and older Americans are often the target. Unfortunately, the internet has intensified this problem. We set boundaries for our kids on the internet and devote considerable time and resources to protect them. We need to continue this outreach to our senior citizens. One helpful resource is onguardonline.gov, which offers tips that are useful for all ages.

Most social networking sites include privacy settings that help filter who is able to see personal information and make connections. It’s important that we double check this on our own pages and for loved ones who use these popular tools. Help fix the settings to make sure they are not replying to messages from people that they don’t know. Participating on social networking sites is fun but it does come with certain risks. Having a conversation about how to safeguard against potential dangers is crucial. Being on guard and recognizing signs of common scams can minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim.

If you suspect you or someone you know may have been a victim of an internet scam, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and report the scam to the Arkansas Attorney General at www.GotYourBackArkansas.org or call (800) 482-8982.

While the internet has made it easier to stay connected with our friends and family, it also creates new ways to prey on innocent people. Make sure you take the necessary steps to prevent you and your loved ones from becoming victims.