7 on your Side Warning: Older consumers and fraud

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Research shows millennials are more vulnerable to get scammed and lose small amounts of money since they're more active on social media, but it's older Americans who wind up letting their life savings go in seconds.

It took just 48 hours of scare tactics to get Jean Reilly, the Yonkers mom of a police officer, to send scammers pretending to work for Microsoft, 10 grand in gift cards -- not once, but twice.

Retired Teacher Jackie Washack was hacked and called at her home in Parsippany, conned into believing her bank account would be drained if she didn't run out for $6,000 in Apple and eBay gift cards to protect it.

They are among consumers 60 and older the FTC says is losing large sums of savings to phone scams, falling victim to imposters impersonating friends or family 'sweepstakes swindles' and like Jean and Jackie, 'online' scams involving gift cards or wire transfers.

The FTC launched a 'Pass It On' campaign to encourage people to talk about being scammed. A spokesperson said the FTC applauds efforts 7 on your Side brought to their attention, like how Rite Aid plastered gift card kiosks with warnings and instructed employees to stop seniors who come in to purchase large amounts of gift cards.

Rite Aid refunded $3,000 in gift cards she had purchased after Jackie called 7 on your Side for help and wanted to publicize her problem to prevent another retiree from falling prey.

Cyberfraud expert Adam Levin says to protect yourself and warn people in your life - from millennials to seniors, to recognize the first sign of fraud someone contacting you and first asking you to verify who you are.

"Rule number 1 - whatever age you are, never authenticate yourself to anyone who contacts you for any reason," Levin said.

Warn others about phone call masking - it's easy to program a call to say it is from a utility, the FBI or the IRS.

Tell your family and friends never to make payments from someone on the phone demanding gift cards.

Phishing - with a 'ph' is the most common fraud. Scammers will use fake email or copy cat websites to steal your personal information, and maybe your identity.

Another fraud scheme is the 'malware - scareware' scheme. This is where you inadvertently click on a link that infects your computer. Scammers then ask for money to fix the problem.

Also, watch out for the advanced fee schemes. This is where thieves send you what looks like a legitimate check that eventually bounces - but only after you've cashed it and sent part of the money back to the scammer.

Some big takeaways - first, examine email addresses and URLs and don't click on suspicious links or attachments. This is how thieves can infect your computer.

Strengthen your passwords and enable two-factor authentication, making it tougher for hackers to access your accounts.
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.