What is a Scam and how can you avoid them?
No sooner had I published my first post about scams that seniors should watch out for, COVID-19 hit here (US) with overwhelming power. And if the disease and panic and hoarding weren’t enough, hundreds of scams sprang up also. Therefore I found it necessary to write another article about scam alerts for seniors.
In this article, I plan to include the research that has crossed my desk in the past few weeks, in hopes of alerting seniors to the scams that are circulating. I also will provide resources of what you can do if you are contacted. And if unfortunately, you have been scammed, contact sources to report the crimes.
The resources I provide here are United States based. However, I imagine the scams are similar around the world. I would hope there are similar resources available in your country.
- Callers offering test kits, vaccines, and supplies for the CoronaVirus. They tell you that Medicare will pay for these things. Or they say that your premium payments weren’t made. Or you don’t have enough coverage if you get the virus.
- Scammers are also calling regarding the stimulus checks. They claim they need your social security number.
- They are also claiming you need a mandatory test for the virus. This is not the case! This communication is usually through text messages.
- They may email you or call you. Some even have the audacity to come to your door!
- Scammers claiming to be from the IRS threaten you with jail if you don’t give them information. The IRS would never do that!
- People claiming to be from the Social Security department will ask for personal information.
- Postcards from a fake company called National Residential Improvement Association (NRIA) or the Federal Grants Administration letting you know you have money for home improvements. Neither of these agencies exist. And they will ask you for personal information or a payment to get your money.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE THEN IT’S PROBABLY A SCAM!
Just today, my phone rang with a call that showed Credit Bureau E on the caller ID. What is that? I never answer a call that I don’t recognize. If it is important, the caller will leave a message. Guess what? This caller didn’t. Therefore, I can conclude it was a scam.
In the past few days, I keep getting scam emails saying my Amazon account is being put on hold or my Apple account has a problem.
Seniors especially are at a higher risk for a number of reasons. One reason may be that the senior does not have the knowledge or experience with the internet. And we older folks tend to trust people or an organization too easily. Then there are feelings that enter into the mix, like helping a loved one, or just feeling lonely and just wanting to reach out to someone. Another expert has claimed that as our brain ages we don’t seem to make rational decisions, at least not as much as we used to.
How To Protect Yourself
- Never give out credit card, bank, social security, or any other account information to anyone you aren’t sure of. For example, say you get an email that says your Amazon account has been declined. Do not respond to that email. Do not open any links within that email or any attachments. Instead, you can forward the email to Amazon and delete the email.
- Never answer a phone call from a number you don’t recognize.
- Do not click on links that you know nothing about. If you are interested, type in the organization information and follow that link.
- Use strong passwords that can’t be discovered easily. Here’s an article from Google as to how to choose a secure password.
- Never click on links that you don’t trust. If you aren’t sure, be safe and find another way to contact them. Be sure you have some good antivirus software installed in all your devices.
- Contact a trusted medical professional. Most major insurance companies have email options available. For instance, I had a non emergency procedure scheduled for later this month. I contacted the doctor via email and we agreed to postpone it. But you should be able to contact your carrier about other concerns.
By the way if you are concerned about symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC has an app to self diagnose. Although it was built for Apple products, you can access it on your desktop. I’ve used it twice already when I had a mild cough.
Helpful Phone Numbers and Resources
Following is a list of resources you might find helpful.
- Every one of us should have a trusted loved one or at the very least a financial advisor to help us handle our finances. This person should have access to your accounts and on a regular basis check on your activities. Better yet, consult them often about concerns, like if you suspect fraud.
- National Center For Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721. This number is especially for any fraudulent activity relating to COVID-19.
- Have you used Zoom? It’s a free software that lets you meet with a group of people. During this quarantine period, it is a wonderful option to keep in touch with people. I have used it for various meetings with my church. Click on this Zoom link to check it out.
- Here is a BBB article about fake texts from supposed government agencies.
- Received calls from someone claiming to be the IRS? Go to this link to report it.
- If you suspect you are being scammed or have been scammed, contact your local police department. They may investigate or else provide you with contact numbers of how to proceed. Don’t be embarrassed that you fell for this. You are not alone. And your reporting may help to stop these criminals.
- If you receive communication for a supposed Social Security person, usually an email, they will usually threaten you with arrest or ask for personal information. Go to this link to SSA to contact them.
- The FBI has a link also, where you can report internet crimes. Click here.
- Lastly, if you need to contact a credit bureau, here are the websites and numbers.
- Equifax. Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services. 800-685-1111.
- Experian. Experian.com/help. 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
- Transunion. TransUnion.com/credit-help. 888-909-8872.
Here’s a great video on what one son is doing to help his father. He stays up to date with what is happening in his dad’s life. I love it!
As I write all this, I was thinking, I hope people don’t think I am scamming them with this information. I worked for law enforcement before my retirement. We have to pass extensive criminal background checks. Of course I realize you have to take my word for this! But I hope you can see I have nothing to gain financially by giving you this information.
While working at a small police department, I was saddened to see people taken advantage of. These are usually elderly females with a kind heart. But scammers can prey on anyone. Just be careful please!
I welcome your comments. I especially would like to hear from you about other scams that I didn’t cover. Sadly there may be a Part 3. Your input would be the foundation for that. By the way you can click here to see Part 1.