Avoiding Scams

by | Jan 28, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Any person can be the victim of a scam.  Older adults, however, may be more susceptible to this type of abuse.  Seniors tend to be retired and are more often at home when scammers call.  Seniors may also be lonely and are more apt to talk to a stranger on the phone and eventually trust that stranger.  They tend to have a large amount of liquid assets.  They may be suffering from dementia or another mental illness and are more easily persuaded to send their money.  

Scams usually begin when a scammer purchases your contact information from a third party.  Have you ever filled out a form at a tradeshow?  Do you have magazine subscriptions?  Are you listed in the phone book?  Some companies are willing to sell their customers’ information for $5-7 per person. The scammers use this information to make to call, send an email, or send a letter.

Common Scams

Here is a list of typical scams:

  • Grandparents Scam
    • Scammers call grandparents impersonating grandchildren.  Scammers state that they have been arrested or got into trouble on vacation and need money.  Scammers can use information from Facebook to make this believable – for example, the scammer will do research on social media and see that a person is on vacation in Mexico, the scammer will then track down that person’s relatives (again, using social media) and contact those relatives.
  • Fake Debt Collection
    • Scammers state that you have a past due debt and ask you to pay over the phone.
  • Fake IRS
    • Scammers state that you owe back taxes.
  • Fake Jury Duty
    • Scammers tell you that you were supposed to show up for jury duty, that you failed, and now you have to pay a fine. 
  • Fake Lotteries/Sweepstakes
    • Scammers call and state that you have won a million dollars, but you need to pay the taxes before you can claim your money.
      • You should never have to pay money up front when you win a legitimate sweepstakes or lottery.
  • Fake Charities
    • Scammers call or email you to solicit donations to a “charity.”

You can find a more comprehensive list of common scams here. 

How To Protect Yourself from Scams

It is important for you to educate yourself, loved ones, and clients on ways to prevent scams.  Here are some common tools to use to prevent the scams.

Computer

  • Keep your passwords private.
  • Use virus protection and keep it updated.
  • Never reply to emails that ask for personal information.
  • If you receive an email asking for personal information from a bank, credit card company, or another business that looks legitimate, do not click on the link provided in the email.  Instead, type in the website’s address in your browser.
  • Protect personal information on social networking sites.
    • Make sure you increase your security on social networking sites to ensure strangers cannot view all of your information.

Phone 

  • Use Caller ID wisely, but know that scammers are able to make it look like they are calling from a legitimate business.  Do not answer calls that are blocked or are unavailable.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone when the person has called you.  If a bank, credit card company, or any other business asks for personal information, hang up and call the business back directly (and don’t use a number they give you over the phone – find a number in your records or online).
  • Know that scammers are persistent and may call you and impersonate police offers or other trusted officials.  Make sure you can always contact that person via a phone number listed on a legitimate website.

Charities

  • Do not send money in response to charitable solicitations through the mail, unless you independently verify the charity.
  • Use charitynavigator.org to verify that the charity is legitimate.

You can sign up to receive alerts regarding scams here

Make sure you educate your clients and your family members on ways they can protect themselves from these scams.  The Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General’s office is always willing to answer questions and provide guidance.

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