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How to protect yourself from scammers

Created date

January 5th, 2016
scam alert logo
scam alert logo

The scam alert series has covered many scams over the years. To start the New Year right, defend yourself from scammers by reviewing some of their most common tactics. Remember, all consumers are potential fraud targets and older Americans are not necessarily defrauded at a higher rate than younger consumers. However, certain types of scams are more likely to impact seniors. Here’s a list of scams to be wary of: 

Tech support 

You get a call telling you there is a problem with your computer. The caller goes on to say he or she can fix your problem “remotely.” Don’t fall for this! They are simply trying to gain access to your computer, your passwords, or your money. 

Telemarketing 

Never give a random caller any credit card or bank account information over the phone. Once they have that information, you can be sure they will use it and not necessarily the way you expect them to. 

Sweepstakes 

It’s great to win a prize, but no legitimate contest will ever ask for credit card information to cover shipping and handling or anything else. Never pay to collect a prize.

Charity 

Before making a donation, research the name of the organization by doing an online search. Type the organization’s name with the word “complaint” or “scam” in your search and see what turns up. 

Free trial offers

Find the terms and conditions for the offer. If you can’t find them or can’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.

Medicare/IRS/government agency

Under no circumstances would someone from Medicare (or any other government agency) ever call and ask for your bank account information to verify your identity. Never give this information to anyone who calls you. Scammers know how to manipulate caller ID so don’t rely on that to screen them out.

Work from home

Any job or opportunity that involves up-front fees or credit card information should make you suspicious. Even if you read the ad in a respected newspaper or trusted website, you must do research to protect yourself before investing in a work-from-home opportunity.

Resources

Being victimized by scammers happens to everyone; however, older victims of fraud are less likely to report the crime—often because they are embarrassed for having been duped. Here’s where you can report or find out about scams and fraud:

 

Charities. These sites gather information about thousands of charities, including IRS records, complaints, etc. 

• The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (give.org) 

• Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) 

• Charity Watch (charitywatch.org) 

• GuideStar (guidestar.org) 

IRS. If you receive a call from the IRS and you are unsure whether you owe federal taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. If you know you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Dept. at 1-800-366-4484. Forward scam emails to phishing@irs.gov.

United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline 1-855-303-9470; aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotlineftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP)

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov/default.aspx)

Report international scams online at econsumer.gov.

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