Fraud affects up to 25 million people per year in the United States alone and seniors are especially vulnerable. If you are age 60 or older—you are at an increased risk of being a target of con artists who sell fake products and services by email or telephone. And with mid-terms right around the corner, electoral fraud is another potential threat. Posing as political volunteers, they try to lure voters into donating money by asking for cash or a credit card number. They may even offer to register you over the phone if you provide your social security number (which is not a legal method of registration in any state).
So what are some other common fraudulent schemes to watch out for and how do you protect yourself if you do become a target? This week, FirstLantic is providing tips and resources to help ensure that you don’t become a victim of fraud. And while we don’t want you to be paranoid that everyone is out to get you, we do want to encourage you to use caution and question things that seem too good to be true or are simply out of the ordinary.
Many of us have received emails where we don’t recognize the sender. If that is the case, it could be a scam. Even internet savvy seniors can fall prey to phishing schemes, the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. For example, you may receive an email that your Facebook account is being deleted or your bank suspects that someone has hacked into your account and they ask you to reset you password through a link. The best rule is to “not click until you check”. Immediately call the company or group that is supposedly sending the email and confirm that it is legitimate and never send confidential information via email.
there are many legitimate companies that conduct research studies over the phone. However, if you are ever asked for personal information in order to participate, alarm bells should go off. Legitimate surveys by bona fide research companies never ask for personal information that could be compromised. If you are asked for this information from a “polling or survey company,’’ you should tell the caller not to call back and hang up. You can also participate in the “do not call program” by registering your home and mobile phone numbers with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 toll free.
Contact from groups posing as Government agencies
Groups posturing as representatives from The Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or Medicare target seniors frequently. They send phony emails or make fake phone calls, telling victims they owe back taxes or are due a refund and they request personal information in order to resolve the issue. However, legitimate government agencies would never ask for that sensitive information over the phone or via email so don’t fall for it.
Requests for money from fake relatives
Sometimes fraudsters will go as far as to pretend to be calling on behalf of a relative that has been in an accident or been robbed and needs money right away. If you receive a call like this, you should never react without confirming. They might even go so far as to tell you that you have to keep this confidential because they are afraid of retribution. Again, this is another trick to get you to act first and confirm later.
Report a problem immediately
Unfortunately, there will always be disreputable people looking to take advantage. Many of them think that seniors are easy prey because they are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit. In addition, many seniors don’t report the crime —and that makes them extremely attractive to con artists. However, you can take precautions and if you are targeted, you should never be embarrassed or ashamed to report it. We have included resources below that will help you to stay informed about potential scams and agencies that you can call if you do have an issue. The only way that we can ever reduce fraud is to report a problem when we see it and hopefully we can protect another potential victim as a result.
Consumer Complaints: Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftc.gov/ or 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
Voter Fraud: Only two methods of voting exist in the U.S. — in person at a government-sanctioned location or via absentee ballot using the U.S. Postal Service. If an unsolicited caller offers to register someone, hang up and contact the local election commission or call the Department of Justice at 800-253-3931 toll free.
Telemarketing Scams: Visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/telemarketing-fraud