Recognizing Fraud and Scams

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Recognizing Fraud and Scams

In the past few years, it feels like we’ve all been fielding more and more fake emails, calls and messages. We find them on our phones, computers and in our mail. Often they tell us that we’ve won a prize (“all you need to do is send us ‘x’ amount of dollars to claim it!”) or that our car warranty is about to expire (even if we don’t have a car). Sometimes they include our names to make them feel personal and legitimate. They may ask us for our Social Security numbers or banking information. For those who are familiar with scam tactics, it may be easy to identify them when they appear. But all too often, scams are directed at aging persons who may be experiencing cognitive decline or are generally less familiar with the technology through which fraud occurs. The aging demographic is therefore more vulnerable to these attempts.

So how can older folks and those in their lives recognize attempts to deceive them? There are all sorts of fraud and scams out there and they are all potentially detrimental. As a general rule, if you are ever suspicious or uncertain about some form of correspondence, be it a letter, email, call, or anything else, check with someone you trust, like a family member or friend. Even if it’s legit, it is always better to play it safe than to risk your financial security. What’s more, sometimes fraudsters will claim to be family members, such as children or grandchildren. They may masquerade as charities to get you to send them money or promise you easy, false medical solutions for a fee. Most notably, sometimes they will claim to represent the government or the IRS.

As a rule, the U.S. government will never threaten to take away your benefits or ask for your personal or banking info to protect your Social Security or Medicare. Be wary: scammers will sometimes use numbers which look similar to the Social Security Administration’s phone number. In the same manner, the IRS will never demand immediate payment through wire transfer or gift card, threaten to arrest you for not paying, demand payment without question, or request personal information through email, text, or social media. Should you receive a link from a source claiming to be the government or the IRS, do not open it.

In addition, it is always necessary to keep your information secure. Keep Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe place where they are not easily accessible or likely to be lost. Do not provide your Social Security or Medicare information over the phone. If anyone asks for that info, hang up immediately. It is also important to keep an eye on your Medicare statements online in order to ensure there are no billing mistakes or fraud. To help stay secure, only share your Medicare and Social Security numbers with your professional health team.

We now live in a world where fraud and scam attempts are commonplace. They call, email, text and send us mail in order to steal our information or money. There are many ways in which these attempts occur, but as stated earlier, always play it safe. Never send your information to a source you’re not certain about. Most importantly, don’t try to figure it out alone! Seek out friends and family who can help and who may be more familiar with what fraud and scams look like. The more you know and the more help you have, the safer you are.


Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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