SARASOTA (WWSB) - May 15 is National Senior Fraud Awareness Day.
Nearly every day, experts say homeowners are deceived by dishonest contractors. To help equip seniors with crucial information to protect themselves from fraud and scams, the Senior Friendship Center held a seminar Wednesday morning.
But it’s not just the elderly that are targeted. How many times has a telemarketer called to either get your personal information or your credit card number?
Having your name, address, social security number and birth date is all very valuable to the bad guys and experts said they’re constantly coming up with new ways to come between you and your money.
“I suddenly got emails congratulating me for opening my Nascar credit card and I thought, I don’t even watch Nascar," said Amanda Cattaneo Ross.
It’s what tipped her off that something wasn’t right.
“For about six months, I had to sign papers and say that I hadn’t opened a Nascar credit card, I hadn’t bought a piece of property in Arkansas," Ross explained. "It was for a lot of money.”
Ross said her identity was stolen after she gave all of her information to a life insurance company who sold it.
Wednesday, she and a group at the Senior Friendship Center learned how to protect themselves from not only this tried and true scam, but others as well.
“The barcodes on the prescription drug bottles carry your credit card information that you used to pay for your prescriptions, your birth date and your health care information," explained Melissa Leedom, expert Care Manager and CPA.
She said to keep that information private, make sure you black out or peel off the barcodes on your prescription bottles. Another scam you might not have considered - funeral and cemetery costs.
“So this is people coming to claim outstanding debts for someone who passed away and they’re [telling] the family member, ‘Oh you know, I provided a service, and so and so owed me $500.’”
But the one that’s often least expected and most heartbreaking - fraud from family members.
“The number one area, I would say to look out for, is who can you trust in your family?" Leedom said. "Adult children, unfortunately, are taking advantage of their parents. And so it’s important to get some trusted parties involved.”
A good rule of thumb to combat all the other scams is never provide any of your information to someone who is calling or emailing you.
“If you’re getting an inbound request, whether on your computer, “there’s a virus," but really it’s a fake virus. If you’re getting something inbound or an inbound phone call, don’t provide any information,” said Leedom.
- Health Care, Medicare, Health Insurance Fraud - Scammers posing as a Medicare representative to get personal information or bill Medicare and pocket the money.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs - Scammers operating on the internet overcharge for medications, or sell potentially unsafe substances to unsuspecting seniors.
- Funeral or Cemetery Scams - Scammers coming to claim outstanding debts for a family member who passed away.
- Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products - Scammers selling fake Botox, bogus homeopathic remedies, or miracle supplement to restore the memory.
- Telemarketing Schemes - Scammers call claiming they found money to split, or posing as a child or grandchild who is in the hospital or jail and needs money. They also pose as fake charities soliciting money or the IRS/other government agencies claiming that you owe money.
- Internet Fraud - Scammers posing as Microsoft, Apple or another reputable company and use pop up windows on your computer that simulate a virus scan. The scan will then claim you have a virus and need to download a fake software or allow remote access. They also may use an email/phishing scam that prompts you to update or verify personal information.
- Investment Schemes - Scammers promise high ROI. These are the pyramid schemes or claims that you have inheritance money and need help cashing it.
- Homeowner/Mortgage Scams - Scammers say they will assess your home value for a fee. There are also refinancing schemes where a scammer will offer money or a free house in exchange for your property title.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams - Scammers claim you have “won a free cruise!” or you “won the lottery?” Then they ask you to pay taxes or give them all of your information in order to get your prize.
- Identity Theft - Scammers will get your social security number, debit card number, passwords and/or personal information and steal your identity.
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail.
- Sign up for direct deposit.
- Shred documents with personal information.
- Don’t give any information over the phone.
- Don’t put your personal information on the internet for unsolicited emails.
- Seek a trusted 3rd party to help you.
- Constantly review your bank account statements
- Say no to people pressuring you to buy something without giving you time to think about your purchase.
- Don’t be afraid to report if you are a victim of fraud. There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed.