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Frauds, Scams and Identity Theft- Here Are All of the Popular Ones: A Very Share-able Article.


(Note: See that green SHARE button on the top, right- Hit it and get this article on your social sites and even print it for any elderly you feel may be easily duped)

Typically, these criminals use personal information, persistence and intimidation to swindle money from their victims. Unfortunately, scam victims may be too embarrassed or fearful to tell family or friends. Con artists usually appear to be trustworthy and sincere.

The Fake Accident/Arrest Ploy: The con artist gets the older adult to withdraw money on the pretext that the older adult’s child, grandchild or another relative is in the hospital or jail and needs money immediately.

A variation on this theme that has been used for a number of years is often referred to as the Grandparent Scam. An FBI warning notice explained how this scam can be so believable for a loving grandparent. A grandparent receives a call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson by name. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And oh by the way, please don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!”

A criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets from the Internet and social networking sites, which makes the impersonations more believable. For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport.

Sweepstakes/Lottery: “Congratulations, You’ve won!” You receive a call saying you have won a free or cheap vacation, other prize, lottery or sweepstakes. You can redeem the winnings by merely paying some taxes and other costs. You also must provide bank account information, send a check or wire the money to receive the winnings or prize. Legitimate contests do not require taxes or fees to be paid up front. You never have to pay money to win money. Also – beware of checks sent to you by alleged lotteries. The checks are fake!

Mail Fraud: The con artist attempts to sell fraudulent or misrepresented investments, solicit funds for phony charities, promote participation in fraudulent work at home schemes or sell chances in phony sweepstakes or contests.

Internet Fraud: Victim receives an e-mail from either a familiar organization (IRS, their bank, cell phone provider, etc.) or a notification that they are the beneficiaries of a bequest. The e-mail requires immediate response and the sharing of some personal information. An e-mail address may appear to be very legitimate. Sometimes there is only one very small difference in the address that is not easy to notice.

Home Improvement & Repairs: Legitimate contractors, roofers, tree-trimmers, gutter cleaners, driveway sealers, and painters do not go door-to-door looking for work. Do not sign any contracts or make a down payment until you know the facts. Never pay the total amount for a job until you are satisfied with it. Have someone you trust read a contract before you sign it.

Additional Fraud and Scam Information:
- In the past decade a number of new banking scams have emerged. Much fraudulent activity and many scams involve theft of identity or financial information.
- Debt consolidation scams – ignore letters, TV and radio ads pitching a 50% reduction in debt. These organizations often charge large fees up front that will only add to your debt problems.

- Never give personal information to strangers and unsolicited requests.

- Many trusting, older adults often do not realize how important it is to protect their account numbers and confidential PIN numbers. They often welcome assistance with shopping and allow relatives, neighbors and new friends to use their debit and credit cards for cash and purchases. Often, a portion of the funds may indeed be used for legitimate purchases; however, the remainder is not used for the benefit of the older adult, or is used without his or her knowledge.

- Credit card numbers are stolen and sold over the internet. Perpetrators have blank cards and equipment to duplicate the original card. There are many methods that can be used to obtain a person’s credit card number.

- Beware of the contractor or door-to-door salesperson who offers to drive you to the bank to get cash before starting a job. They may try to convince you that a very serious repair needs to be done immediately. Get another opinion and estimate from someone else. You will most likely find out that you don’t really have a serious problem that is in need of immediate repair. There may not even be a problem at all.

- Any outgoing cash wires should be carefully considered and perhaps discussed with someone you trust, especially monies being wired out of the U.S. How well do you know the person that will be receiving the money- Is this to purchase a product, or a loan- Worse yet, were you told that it should be kept confidential because you have won money-

- Using a credit card is safer than using a debit card. It limits a person’s losses.



Below are some alerts, reminders, and other information compiled from various sources that may be helpful for you to use as a reference for developing public awareness sharing with older adults, family members and caregivers in your community – in flyers, agency newsletters, during community presentations or senior programs, radio or TV programs, newspaper articles, etc.

New Social Security Scam:

- Constant and harassing phone calls similar to fake Internal Revenue Service calls from criminals impersonating SSA officials.

- Ability to spoof caller IDs makes it look like a legitimate call from Social Security.

- Sample of demands and threats from scammers: (1) pay for new Medicare card by putting hundreds of dollars on gift cards – there is no charge for the new replacement cards that don’t include Social Security numbers anymore; (2) you will lose Social Security benefits unless you provide personal information; (3) scammers impersonating Medicare representatives asking to verify Social Security numbers; (4) your Social Security number has been suspended for suspicious activity; (5) asking for information so you can get a bigger Social Security check; (6) threaten that your benefits will be stopped; (7) Social Security computers are down and they need your help in providing some information; (8) asking to see person’s old Medicare card, which shows the Social Security number; (9) pretending to return a call from you regarding Social Security benefits.


- Any suspicious calls that appear to be from the Social Security Administration should be reported immediately to the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security at 800-269-0271 (fraud hotline), or submit a report online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.


Gift Card Scams:

- Gift card scams are increasing.

- Warning about new and increasingly common scam with callers pretending to represent a federal or state agency. They contact consumers about a fictitious debt and demand payment in the form of a prepaid gift card or risk punishment. Always remember that a government agency will never ask for payment in the form of a prepaid gift card.

- Although many older adults may be reluctant to do so because they don’t want to seem impolite, they should be encouraged to simply hang up the phone immediately and report the call to local law enforcement.

- Never read or text someone the PIN number on the back of a gift card. The number is as good as cash in the scammers’ pocket.


- Reputable businesses don’t ask for gift cards as payment.

- If you’re buying gift cards as gifts, make sure to buy them from a reputable and known source.

- Always treat gift cards like cash and protect them as you would your wallet.


Charitable Giving Scams:


- Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media platforms or blogs have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.

- Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and whether you will be charged any fees for making a donation through a fundraising platform website.

- Check to see if the charity is registered with the NY Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

- Websites posing as charities can sometimes look identical to the real organization. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal or financial information over an unsecure connection or may download harmful malware into your computer. Look for a padlock symbol or “https” before the web address indicating that it is secure.

- Avoid being pressured to make an immediate donation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to get more information.

- If you didn’t initiate contact, avoid giving personal or financial information over the phone. This is an important rule for all phone contacts people receive.

- Never write out a check or give cash to an individual solicitor. Make checks payable to the charity.

Shopping and Computer Related Scams:

- Only shop on secure websites. Look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol.

- Consider paying with a credit card that offers fraud protection when possible.

- Some retailers and delivery services need extra help during seasonal times, but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers’ main stores or websites to find out who is hiring.

- Computer scams

o Person receives call from someone claiming to be an IT professional saying your computer has a virus. Scammer assures you that the virus can be removed, but scammer needs access to the computer. Scammer then installs software allowing retrieval of anything stored on the computer, recording key strokes, acquiring bank and credit card information and passwords.

o Pop-up window warning that the computer has a virus and you need to click on the install button to remove it. Clicking on the link can give a scammer access to the computer and any information stored in it.


Chimney Cleaning or Repair Fraud:

- Several of our neighboring states have discovered recent problems with chimney repair scams. As we move further into the winter months you may want to alert older adults and caregivers in your communities about ways to avoid these scams.

- As with any home repair service, beware of suspicious phone calls, door-to-door solicitations, and direct mail offering very low prices for chimney services.

- If repairs are suggested, do not feel pressured by claims of urgent need for immediate work to begin. Disreputable businesses know it is difficult to verify need for chimney repairs and prey on a homeowner’s fear.

- Ask for photo or video proof of need for repairs and make sure it has enough background included so you can clearly identify it as your home.

- Broken debris does not necessarily mean repairs are needed. It may not even be from your chimney. Ask them to show you exactly where the pieces came from.

- Before you meet with a service person become familiar with products and repairs specific to fireplaces and chimneys.

- Ask questions.

o How long has the company been in business-

o As for current references-

o Check with the Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau regarding any complaints.

o Does the company maintain professional credentials-

o Does the company carry the proper insurance-


Some of this information was adapted from November and December 2018 articles from USA Today; Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance; New York State Attorney General; The Hickman in West Chester, PA; Better Business Bureau of Central New England; Chimney Safety Institute of America.

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