AARP Spike in Fraud: What Should You Look Out For?
Senior citizens have been favorite targets of fraudulent schemes. Diminished memory and analytical skills combine with isolation from family members or others experienced in many matters to place them at risk. As a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and the heightened risk to seniors, the isolation has enhanced. These seniors must heavily rely on technology or phone systems for communication and information. With all of these factors, it is not surprising that the AARP reports upticks in the number of reports of fraudulent schemes.
Below are some scams seniors have faced — both before the pandemic and since it started — and how you can spot them.Read More »
COVID-19 has inspired a number of false online, social media and other claims of treatments, cures or vaccines. The scammers seek to exploit especially vulnerable seniors and other populations to pay for non-existent treatments, masks, sanitizers and other medical supplies. Avoid would-be sellers who do not identify themselves or a physical street address or location. If you see what appears to be high prices, contact your local law enforcement or state’s attorney general so that these agencies can investigate price-gouging and other misconduct.
Aside from pandemics, fraud artists may pose as Medicare representatives to get your Social Security number, birth dates and other private information. In such calls, the scammer falsely states that he or she is enrolling you in Medicare or that Medicare is sending you another card and needs to update your information. Seniors may enroll for Medicare or ask for replacement cards directly through the Social Security Administration’s website or phone number. The agency does not call you to ask for updated information in advance of issuing a new card.
Obtain your medical treatments, prescriptions and supplies from licensed or known providers. In some Medicare or insurance schemes, the perpetrator claims that Medicare or your insurer will pay for a piece of equipment, some novel or experimental treatment or medicine. Contact Medicare or your health plan if you have doubts or questions about services, supplies or equipment.
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An email or phone call proclaims you have been entered into or have won a sweepstakes. To be eligible or to claim your prize, you are asked to provide your bank account number, credit or debit card number and perhaps your Social Security number. To your dismay, the prize money never comes. Instead, you discover bills that you don’t recognize or zero balances in your checking and savings.
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You Owe Taxes
Tax authorities do not employ phone calls, emails or texts to collect taxes. If you’re delinquent on taxes, the IRS, your state government or local government will send you a written notice. This is because written notice is required by law as part of the enforcement process. Anyone who calls you to collect taxes likely is impersonating a government employee or official and is seeking your bank account or other financial information.
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Charity fraud sprouts especially during disasters and emergencies. Beware of direct solicitations that request or pressure you to donate over the phone or online. These tactics are designed to discourage you from researching the charity. If you take a call from a fundraiser, ask for specifics about the charity’s name, headquarters or location and how the supposed charity will use the money. You may consult the Internal Revenue Service’s “Tax Exempt Organization Search,” the Better Business Bureau or another reputable consumer protection agency. Certain states require fundraisers to register with the secretary of state or similar office.
Posing as Relatives
Aging leads eventually to memory problems. Scammers rely on this circumstance for so-called “grandparent” scams. Specifically, someone calls identifying himself or herself as a grandchild or other family member. The person then pretends to be in legal, financial, medical or other trouble such as not being able to leave a particular place. Be especially aware if the caller or e-mailer requests that you wire money or hand over credit or debit card information.
As a variant of the grandparent scheme, some cheats will start an online relationship with you. Playing on your need for attention and at least virtual companionship, the scammer might start with a rather harmless or innocent conversation about, say, current events or your interests. The talk then turns to small needs for which small amounts or loans are requested. Again, stay clear of requests to wire money or for account information.
Ransom and Malware
Nearly three out of four adults age 65 years or older go online. The laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones of seniors (and others) may fall prey to ransom-ware tricks. Viruses and other codes are contained in these malicious software applications or online links that, once opened, infect your computer or other device. Many of these technological viruses take your devices “hostage” by locking or stalling all functions. A message will appear on the screen with a phone number that you call so to get your device released from captivity. Rather than freeing your device for use, the scammer simply collects credit card, debit card or other financial account information.
Cyber thieves can also use malware to spy on your computer. Such spyware tracks your website visits and can capture your credit card or online payments when you order items or pay bills.
To combat these forms of cybercrime, go only to trusted websites with names that you know. Your computer or mobile device should have antivirus and internet security software or apps
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