NEw Archives - Council on Aging

September Scam of the Month

The Better Business Bureau issued a warning notifying citizens that investment scams targeting older adults are increasing. Of course scams like this affect all ages; however, an uptick of complex investment opportunities are being directed at older investors. Some of these scams may include unregistered securities, promissory notes, charitable gift annuities, Ponzi schemes, etc.

Here are some tips for spotting investment scams:

  • Don’t trust any claims where there are no risks. ALL investments carry some sort of risk.
  • Disregard promises of big money fast. No one can predict how investments will pay out.
  • Don’t make an immediate decision. Con artists love applying pressure for on the spot decisions.
  • Get everything in writing prior to making any decisions. A legitimate company won’t have a problem with a paper trail.

Take the time to check out investment opportunities with your state’s securities regulator or the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at www.sec.gov or 202-551-6720

Sources: the Union Recorder & greenpath.com

August Scam of the Month

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) issued a statement warning older adults that scammers may be using DNA testing as way to get private information.  In this situation, scammers will approach older adults at senior community centers and assisted living facilities, stating that they are testing for cancer and other life-threatening diseases with a cheek swab. In reality, these con artists are obtaining personal information like social security numbers, banking information, etc.

In some scenarios, the older adult might be told that the genetic test can be paid by Medicare, which is likely fraud. Medicare recipients should report suspicious activity to its toll-free number, 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

Always keep in mind:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • ONLY give out private information like Medicare/Social Security numbers or banking information to trusted, verified individuals/organizations
  • Don’t feel pressured into making an immediate decision
Resources: tn.gov & fox17.com

July Scam of the Month

Summer Vacation Safety

 

At one time, going on vacation meant we could let our guard down and be carefree. Unfortunately, in this technological age, you simply cannot afford to do that. Scammers are everywhere and very good at what they do. The Benjamin Franklin axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies. Here are some tips to keep you, your family and identity safe while enjoying your vacation.

  1. Notify your bank. Traveling out of state or overseas while using your bankcard could cause a fraud alert to appear and suspend your account. A quick phone call would prevent this hassle.
  2. Be cautious when searching for rental properties on websites like Craigslist. A legitimate rental will not ask for payment via wire transfer.
  3. Avoid stand-alone ATM’s. Scammers like these because they are able to attach a credit card skimmer with less risk of detection. The same applies for gas stations when paying at the pump. Give the card reader a quick pull. A fake one will not feel secure.
  4. Stay on guard even in your hotel. If you receive a phone call from the “front desk” asking you to confirm your payment method, hang up. It is scam. If the hotel really has an issue, they will ask you to come to the front desk.
  5. Stay alert. Identity thieves’ techniques evolve, especially in the technological age but some will always rely on good old-fashioned pickpocketing. Safeguard your wallet, purse and phones.
  6. Save the social media posts. Wait until you are home to share the photos of your family vacation. You don’t want to announce when your home will be empty.
  7. Make sure you place a hold on newspaper and mail deliveries. A full mailbox or several newspaper on your porch are sure signs no one is home.
  8. Only take what you will need. Leave the extra credit/bank cards at home. Do you really need your social security card with you? Birth certificate? If not, leave it at home.
  9. Take photocopies or a picture of all the information in your wallet, including the front and back photos of your credit/bank cards, I.D., passport, etc. Keep the copies in a safe place, not your wallet or purse. One option is to email the copies to yourself so it will always be available.
  10. Be wary of free Wi-Fi. Free means open airwaves and everything you do is transmitted over an unsecured connection and makes you vulnerable. Some Wifi connections are fake and are set up by hackers just to steal your information. Always double check with the location to see if it is official.
  11. Don’t leave expensive or important belongings in the hotel room. Use a safe if one is provided in the room. If not, ask the front desk for another alternative.
  12. Many credit/bank cards are now equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, which makes stealing your information easier for high-tech scammers. Consider using a RFID blocking wallet, purse or case.
  13. Most importantly, if anything does happen, act fast. Contact your bank or credit card company as well as the credit reporting bureaus. If your ID is stolen, file a police report immediately. This is necessary for creating a paper trail as well as a timeframe for the theft. If traveling overseas and your passport is lost or stolen, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They can help you with a replacement. You should also call the local police and file a report.

Sources: Lifelock and the Better Business Bureau

June Scam of the Month

Last month, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued a warning about the “one-ring” phone scam. This scam works by letting your phone ring once and then hanging up. The scammers are hoping that this tactic will prompt you to call the number, resulting in HIGH long distance phone charges.

Many reports indicate that the calls are featuring area codes from West Africa. Authorities recommend blocking the number and NOT calling the number back.

Additional tips to protect yourself from phone scams:

  1. Avoid answering or calling back phone numbers you do not recognize
  2. Be vigilant, even when a number appears to be legitimate
  3. Report scam or suspicious calls to fcc.gov/complaints
  4. If you never make international calls, place a block by calling your phone company

 

Sources: wkrn.com and fox5ny.com

May Scam of the Month

SSA IMPOSTOR CALLS TAKE OVER

Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a warning that scammers were spoofing calls from the SSA’s Fraud Hotline. The impostors are telling lies that instill fear like “your social security number has been suspended for criminal activity” or “your benefits might be suspended if you don’t follow these instructions.”

For years, IRS impostor scams have topped fraud reporting lists, but now the federal government says that the SSA impostor scam is nearing epidemic proportions!

Here are some tips to protect yourself:

Share scam information – Scammers had to find a new con because the IRS impostor calls became too recognizable. Remember, knowledge is power, so please tell your family and friends.

Ask questions – The Social Security Administration typically does NOT call you out of the blue and they DO NOT call from the Fraud Hotline phone number.

Follow Up – Don’t call the numbers provide by the caller or through a robocall. Call SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213.

Hang up – These scams use fear to take your money. If you feel pressured into making a quick decision, just hang up.

Don’t trust the Caller ID – Scammers are constantly spoofing numbers to look official and there’s no way to tell the difference.

Safeguard private information – Never reveal private or financial information to anyone unless you initiated the call and know for certain who is on the other line.

Don’t wire money – Methods of payment are important. Reputable companies don’t mind a money trail, but scammers do. That’s why wire transfers, gift cards and bitcoins are the payment methods con artists use because once you pay it, it’s gone.

Report the scam – Whether you fall for the scam or not, report it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set up a specific site for the SSA impostor scams at https://indentitytheft.gov/ssa. You can also report the fraudulent contact to the Office of Inspector General online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report or by calling (800) 269-027.

Sources: FTC.gov, ssa.gov, cbs17.com, Clarion Ledger & KSAT12.com 

April Scam of the Month

As many of us live longer, it can become more difficult both physically and financially to maintain a home.  Contractors know this and those who are scammers choose to take advantage of older homeowners. How do you tell if a contractor is a scammer? Here are five “red flag” warnings that you’re being scammed:

Pay Me First

According to the Better Business Bureau, this is the most common scam reported. The contractor will tell you that materials and equipment will need to be ordered. Once you hand over the money, a couple of things can happen: they disappear or they complete the work carelessly.

Trust Me

You have hired a contractor, discussed the work you want completed and the contractor agrees. Now it’s time to sign the agreement. You notice some of the requested work and details are not included. The contractor says “trust me – I’ll take care of it” but it’s not taken care of. Now the contractor tells you that he did not include those extras in the quote and you will have to pay more money.

We Don’t Need a Permit

Any significant construction project requires a building permit. This allows officials to visit occasionally to ensure the work meets safety codes. Dishonest contractors will try to tell you that a permit is not required. Others will try to have you take out a homeowner’s permit. That would mean lying to authorities about who is doing the work, thus making you responsible for monitoring the inspections.

Unexpected Problems

The construction has started or even finished and suddenly the contractor tells you there were unforeseen issues like termites and now the price has skyrocketed. Sometimes additional fees are legitimate, but other times dishonest contractors will bid very low to get their foot in the door and then increase the price later.

Extra Materials

This fraud usually comes from paving companies or roofers or painters.  They tell you that they have extra materials and they can perform the work dirt-cheap. A couple of things can happen. One, they actually do not do the work and take off with your money. Two, they start the work and the job is more complex than they thought and it will cost even more. Third, the work is completed carelessly and in one year your roof leaks or your driveway cracks.

The Legal Aid Society of Middle TN has a helpful booklet about things you need to know before repairing or remodeling. The button below will redirect you to Legal Aid’s booklet.

Here are a few suggestions on how to keep from being a victim of contractor fraud:

  • Hire contractors currently licensed from the TN Board of Licensing contractors. Call 1-800-544-7693 to verify the license. You can also ask the Board if they have had any complaints.
  • Ask the Board if the contractor has paid the insurance bond. This will protect you if the company goes out business or does shoddy work.
  • Use word of mouth. Ask friends and neighbors for suggestions of quality contractors.
  • Ask for references and verify those references.
  • Avoid using a contractor that only has a PO Box or answering service.
  • Call the BBB at 615-242-4222 or TN Consumer Affairs Division at 615-741-4737 to see if any complaints have been filed against a company.
  • Always get more than one bid from different contractors
  • Never hire “on-the-spot”
  • Never accept a verbal agreement…get it in writing!
  • Avoid contracts with blank spaces and make sure the contract includes a license number, address and phone number, detailed work description, list of materials, estimated completion date, price, method of payment and if there is interest to be paid.
  • Read the contract
  • Never pay cash

Sources: Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and www.houselogic.com

 

March Scam of the Month

Spoofed Phone Calls

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warning that scammers are “spoofing” DHS phone numbers. This means your caller ID will show phone numbers that are assigned to DHS but the caller is actually a scammer. In this instance, scammers are posing as law enforcement or immigration officials. Some may tell you that you have been the victim of identity theft, and then the scammer asks you to verify your personal information. Don’t fall for it!

Last week, the Franklin Police reported that the Williamson County Health Department has received complaints that scammers are calling, claiming to be from the Health Department in order to obtain private Medicare information.  This warning is similar to an announcement the Tennessee Department of Health reported a year ago.

Scammers often use spoofing techniques that allow the company name to display on your phone. Caller ID spoofing is the deliberate deception of falsifying information displayed on your Caller ID. Do not rely on the display. If you receive a phone call asking for any kind of private information, it’s best to simply hang up.  

Tips to avoid phone and spoofing scams:

  • Don’t answer calls from an unknown number. When you answer, you’ve just confirmed that your phone number is legitimate.
  • If the caller, or recording, requests you push a button to stop receiving calls – hang up.
  • Do not respond to questions especially ones with a “Yes” or “No” answer.
  • If you get a call from a representative of a legitimate company, hang up and call the number on your account statement or on the company’s website to verify the original call.
  • Never give out personal or private information.
  • Do not allow the caller to force you into an immediate decision or action.

 

Resources: FCC, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Franklin Police Dept. and TN Dept. of Health

January Scam of the Month

Jury duty scams have been around for over a decade and the scam is increasing in our area. The Davidson County Sheriff issued a warning last month that people have been receiving calls from someone pretending to be a deputy. This fake deputy will than tell you that since you did not appear for jury duty, you must pay a fine or be arrested.

Sheriff Department deputies and/or court officers will NEVER call and ask for payment or make threats regarding arrest. Always remember that the goal of scammers is to use fear to illicit an emotional response.

If you have received a jury duty scam call, please report it by calling Metro Police Fraud Unit at 615-862-7594.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Never give out personal information like social security numbers, DOB, etc.
  • Never give out financial information like bank account numbers or credit card information
  • Do not react out of fear. You have the right to verify any requests for information

 

Sources: FBI & News Channel 5

December Scam of the Month

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Cheatin’

While we shop and cook and hang holiday lights, scammers are busy looking for their next targets. The Better Business Bureau has issued a list of scams to watch for this holiday season and tips on how to keep yourself from being the next victim.  
1. Online Shopping: Most stores have switched to chip reading credit card machines to reduce the risk of fraud and skimming. However, scammers are now focusing their efforts online. To protect yourself and your money, financial experts recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card when making online purchases. 
2. Look-Alike Websites: It’s very easy for scammers to mimic real websites.  Look for the https(the “s” means secure) and lock symbol at the top of the web page. Also, look at the spelling of the web address. It is extremely easy for tricksters to change or add an extra letter to make it look legitimate.
3. Fake Shipping Notifications:  This scam is used with different techniques. You may receive an email with attachments or links that could download malware to your computer to steal your personal information. You could also receive a nondescript postcard where you are instructed to call the number on the card which could lead to you revealing private information and/or when the house is vacant. Don’t fall for it!
4. Phony Charities:  Scammers like to take advantage of the holiday spirit by using fake charity solicitations by email, phone and social media sites. You can verify charities atwww.give.org or givingmatters.guidestar.org/.
5. Temporary Holiday Jobs: A lot of companies need additional help during the holidays. Steer clear of job postings that ask you to share personal information or pay for job leads. 
6. Emergency ScamsBe extremely skeptical if you receive a call from a “relative” saying they have been arrested, kidnapped, or hospitalized while traveling. Never send money unless you can verify the information with another family member first.
7. Letters from Santa: There are several reputable companies that offer personalized letters from Santa Claus; however, scammers like to use this as a way to obtain personal and financial information from parents and grandparents.
8. Unusual Forms of Payment: Be wary of anyone asking for prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, etc. as a form of payment. These transactions cannot be traced or refunded.
9. Travel ScamsUse caution when searching for travel bargains. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
10. Social Media Gift Exchange: It sounds fun to purchase one gift and receive so much more in return; however, this holiday “fun” is actually a pyramid scheme which is illegal.
11. Gift Card Scams: Gift cards are always a great idea for the holidays. Just remember to be vigilant. Avoid gift cards displayed in the open. If you choose one that is in a package, inspect the package or open it in front of the cashier to ensure it has not been replaced with a phony. Keep your receipt and register the card online with a new PIN (if possible). 
12. Online Pet Shopping: During the holidays a lot of people look for the perfect gift which could be a pet. Be skeptical of online pet sales. You might receive a pet from a “puppy mill” which could increase the likelihood of poor health, or you may receive nothing at all.
Source: Better Business Bureau
Keep your holidays safe and jolly by not falling for these follies!

November Scam of the Month

Medicare Open Enrollment Scams

It’s open enrollment for Medicare’s more than 60 million participants. As you consider the many options, don’t forget to keep an eye out for scams. Scammers use this time as an opportunity to take advantage of older adults.

 

Here are some common Medicare scams and how to avoid them:

  • You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Medicare and saying you need to provide your Medicare number or credit card information in order to sign up for a plan. HANG UP! Medicare NEVER calls beneficiaries to sign up.
  • Medicare recently started rolling out new cards with a unique alphanumeric ID to replace social security numbers on the card. Some scammers are calling clients and asking for payment in order to receive the new card. STOP! The new Medicare cards are FREE.
  • Other tricksters are calling asking for consumers to update their information with the new Medicare number. DO NOT give out your new Medicare ID. Even though it is no longer your social security number, it still needs to be protected.
  • You get a phone call from a representative claiming to be from Medicare, asking you to confirm or update billing information. HANG UP! Medicare will not call you and they will not ask for payment over the phone or through email.
  • If anyone tries to tell you that signing up for a Part D Prescription Drug plan is mandatory, that is another scam.

If someone asks you for your personal information, for money or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal details, hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Medicare open enrollment for 2019 end on December 7th. The best place for information is online at Medicare.gov, calling Medicare at 1-800-Medicare or SHIP (TN State Health Insurance Assistance Program) at 1-877-801-0044. SHIP offers free and unbiased Medicare information and counseling.

 

Resources: Medicare.gov and AARP