Protect Yourself from Senior Scams: Sweepstakes Scams, COVID Scams, and More
Never before have we had so many sources of reliable information to guard against scammers, individuals trying to trick you into giving away personal information, such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or money from income, pensions or government benefits.
These are some of the areas that scammers use most frequently to target seniors. By learning their tactics, you can learn how to protect yourself against them.
1. COVID Treatment and Cures
You might receive phone calls or emails about treatments and cures for COVID-19. There are many of these COVID scams going around, where scammers tell you about products or treatments that are effective for the coronavirus. These individuals also claim that the treatments are FDA-approved.
At the time of this writing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any treatments, medicines, or vaccines to prevent or cure COVID-19. Currently, your best course of action is to wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and stay at least six feet from other people. You can stay up to date by speaking to your doctor or asking a relative to check the website of the FDA or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
2. Ordering PPE and Other COVID Supplies
Many sellers of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, disposable gloves, disinfectant cleaners or home testing kits are legitimate and trustworthy, but some sellers only pretend to have what you need or pretend to be a legitimate business at all.
The best way to avoid scam businesses is to research the company before making a purchase. You can read online reviews or type in search words such as the company name plus “scams” or “complaints.” If you can’t find good information, consider asking a relative to purchase supplies in a local store and drop them off at your door.
3. COVID Stock Investments
Fraudsters may also contact you to pressure you into buying investment shares in health care companies. They might tell you that the stock price is about to increase dramatically or that you need to invest now or you’ll lose out. These scammers might use words that make the opportunity seem too good to miss or too time-sensitive to take any time to consider. Don’t believe them.
Your best option is to decline and hang up. If you work with an investor, give them a call and discuss the conversation you had. If you entrust your financial investments to a relative, talk it over with them to help everyone stay informed.
4. COVID Contact Tracers
Contact tracers are an important part of knowing who has contracted COVID-19 and who may have been exposed to it. These individuals at your state health department work hard to keep the community safe, but their work is compromised when scammers reach out with false information.
False contact tracers may ask for your Medicare number, Social Security number (SSN), bank account number, or credit card number. Or they may ask you to send payment for completing the coronavirus tracing. Legitimate contract tracers will never ask you for this information. If any of these situations occur, hang up the phone or delete the email.
5. Medicare Claims
Unfortunately, becoming eligible for Medicare at age 65 can lead to senior scams. Here, scammers may call and pretend to be a representative from Medicare who needs to verify your information or request additional information to update your account.
If scammers get your account numbers, they can then submit reimbursement claims to Medicare and pocket the money themselves. This leads to issues with your Medicare account, which can affect your legitimate claims down the line. If you receive one of these calls, don’t provide the caller with any personal information. You can always request their name and then call the official Medicare number to check on their authenticity.
6. IRS and SSA Threats
While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) might contact you about an issue, they almost always send a letter in the mail before ever attempting a phone call. Scammers might say that you owe money, are about to lose your benefits, or haven’t paid your taxes. They might demand your Social Security Number, bank account number or other personal information. These are scams.
The IRS and SSA do not threaten you for nonpayment or demand that you pay them immediately with a gift card or credit card. They don’t ask for your Social Security Number. Since scammers can make it seem like they’re using a SSA or IRS number, you shouldn’t automatically believe what Caller ID says. Hang up immediately. You can always call the SSA or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) for verification.
7. Lottery Sweepstakes
If you’re 65 or older, you face an increased chance of running into sweepstakes scams. Typically, a lottery scammer calls you or sends you an email stating that you’ve won the lottery. To ensure that you receive the money, they ask you for personal information and tell you to send them a gift card, check or wire transfer. They might claim that the advance money is to pay for fees or taxes.
In reality, true lottery sweepstakes don’t ask for early payment for any fees or taxes. You can also do some research on lottery companies to keep informed.
8. Email and Phishing
Scams often appear in emails. Many of these scams include embedded links or buttons to click on to submit information. Instead, these links can let scammers install malware or viruses on your computer, or it can give them access to your passwords, bank accounts and other details.
You might see an email that says it is from a relative or friend, but isn’t. It might include a link or attachment or look different from how they normally write. To protect your identity, don’t click on any links or download any files. If you want to verify the email, you can always give your friend or relative a call and ask them.
We want to help you stay safe. By following the advice above, you can reduce the chance of scammers ever getting your personal information. And if you’re ready to transition to a retirement community, consider our beautiful community of Spring Creek, where we live for optimal wellness each and every day. We believe in empowering residents with the information, services and resources to live exceptional lives. Call us to learn more, or request a free community brochure.