Avoid Being Scammed
Tips To Prevent Being The Victim Of A Senior Scam
Access to major funds or credit, the fact that sometimes seniors are isolated and the perception that elders have reduced cognition are all reasons scam artists view older adults as easy prey.
But just because you may be a target doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. With awareness of the most common scams and having strategies in place, you can avoid getting ripped off and help law enforcement agencies shut down these sordid operations.
The Most Common Scams
Senior scams play on our biggest fears and concerns – our health, our finances, our home and the well-being of our families. Scammers enter people’s lives by mail, phone and email and in person with an unsolicited knock on the door. They often look official and seem trustworthy. Their offers may seem like good ideas – maybe even too good to be true.
• Sweepstake scams: You receive a call or a flyer saying you have won something. To retrieve your “prize,” they ask you to send a check or give your credit card or bank account number.
• Medicare scams: Someone calls saying they are from Medicare and asks for confidential, personal information, such as your Social Security number.
• Update-your-account scam: An email that looks like it is from a company you actually do business with pops into your inbox and asks you to update your account information, including a credit card or bank account number.
• Home repair scams: Unsolicited, someone knocks on your door saying they can fix an issue with your home or on your grounds at a good price.
• Charity scams: Someone calls and asks you to donate to a fake charity with a very real sounding name or someone calls and says you previously made a pledge and they are now collecting on it — again, asking for cash, a check or your credit card number.
• Grandparent scam: Someone calls and says “Hi, Grandma, it’s me” – not giving a name. The senior says, “Oh, hi (name).” Then the caller assumes the grandchild’s identity and asks for money.
There also are funeral and cemetery scams, discount drug scams, investment scams, reverse mortgage scams and debt collection scams. The list is long and new scams are created every day. What they all have in common is asking for money directly or asking for personal information they can use to steal your identity and get your money.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
Be aware that everyone is susceptible and no one is immune. Have your guard up no matter how sharp you think you are and no matter how legitimate something seems. To stay safe, follow these recommendations:
• Don’t give credit card numbers, bank account numbers or Social Security numbers over the phone or by email.
• Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the caller.
• Never answer the door for a person you don’t know.
• Should you find yourself on the phone with a stranger, have a strategy for getting off the phone. Some people feel just hanging up is rude. If that’s the case for you or a loved one, have a strategy that works for you and use it.
• Shred your mail and documents before throwing them away.
• Get an unlisted phone number. Your phone service provider will be glad to help you with this.
• Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222.
• Make it your strict policy to talk over any financial, charity or spending decisions with a trusted family member or friend before giving out information or money.
• Never click a link in an email to access or set up an account with a business. Always enter your account through the business’ main website via your own browser.
• Check your credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
• Consider putting a “security freeze” on your credit report. Find out more by visiting
www.ncdoj.gov and then clicking “Consumer,” then “Credit & Debt” and then “Freeze Your Credit.”
• Visit the North Carolina Department of Justice’s website at www.ncdoj.gov for more tips about avoiding being defrauded under the “Consumer” tab.
Report Scams to Law Enforcement Agencies
If you receive what you believe to be a scam phone call, email or mailing, or if you believe a scam artist has knocked on your door, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency. You also can contact the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office at (919) 716-6000. If you realize you have been a victim of a scam, do not be embarrassed. These scammers are professionals and are very good at what they do. Turn your misfortune into a positive for your community and report the scam so you can help protect others.