New Round Of Phone Scams Target Seniors

By: 
Judy Kramer
County Reporter
There are so many scams going on over the phone and online, that Hawthorn Bank offered information about some of the most current ones at its SeniorFest booth on October 3, in Warsaw. One scam, in particular, is related to Medicare’s open season. A person will say he/she is from Medicare and needs to mail you a new health card, but needs to verify your personal information “to make sure that you are who you say you are!” A call to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE, verified that Medicare does not make calls to people enrolled in one of its plans unless they are expecting one.
 A Consumer Federal Trade Commission (FTC) booklet entitled “Phone Scams” reports that fraud isn’t limited to race, ethnic background, gender, age, education or income, and that scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money and personal information. The booklet states that “If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you hadn’t planned to buy, say ‘No thanks.’ And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information – like your credit card or Social Security number – it’s likely a scam. Hang up and report it to FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.” 
In the interest of helping those who want to know what to do when a potential scammer calls or makes contact online, individual information about current scams regarding health care, winning money, online dating, grandkids, IRS imposters, identify theft, and money-wiring follows.
When it is Medicare open season, or when health care is in the news, scammers write new scripts they will use to try and get your Social Security number, financial information or insurance number. So, it is important to think before talking to them. Do you really have to get a new health card? Is that discounted insurance a good deal? Is that “government official” really from the government? The answer is almost always “no.” If you get a call related to Medicare, call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE to find out the real story.
“You’ve Won” scams may be in the form of a card, call or email. The person calling seems excited, but tells you there’s a fee, some taxes, or customs duties to pay in order to get a prize. FTC’s advice is to keep your money and information to yourself, and never wire money to anyone who asks you to. 
If you meet someone at an online dating website, and that person wants to move off the dating site to email or phone calls, be a little more aware. If this person says that he/she lives far away then asks for money (for a plane ticket to see you, emergency surgery, or other reason) do not send it. Scammers can make fake dating profiles, build relationships and then disappear with your money.
The grandkid scam has been around for years and actually caused a Warsaw woman to go to the post office to get a money order for her “grandson” who she thought needed bail money. Fortunately, a postal employee was able to convince the grandmother that someone was trying to scam her. Another woman who got a similar scam call, asked the caller “which one of my grandsons are you?” and the caller hung up because he didn’t have an answer to that question.  It is advised that in response to such calls, you check with a family member or call the grandson on his number.
If an IRS scammer calls and says that you owe back taxes, don’t believe it. When the IRS first contacts you about unpaid taxes, it is done by mail, not by phone. If you have tax questions go to irs.gov or call IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
Tech support scammers may call saying that your computer is infected and the message may seem like it is coming from a well-know company like Microsoft or Apple.  According to the FTC, these scammers want to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number or get access to your computer to install malware which will allow them to see everything on your computer.
Identify theft is when someone gets your personal information and runs up bills in your name. You may realize this when you get bills for things you didn’t buy or services you didn’t get.  It is advised that you protect you personal information by shredding documents before you throw them out and giving your Social Security number only when you must.  Use strong passwords on line. Once a year get your credit report free from AnnualCreditReport.com or 1-877-322-8228. 
Money Wire scammers may say you have won or inherited money and tell you to pay fees first. They may say a friend or family member is in trouble and needs you to send money, and the list goes on. These are tricks, and to avoid being a victim – Never wire money to someone you don’t know; and never wire money because someone contacted you that you feel like you know, or who says he/she is your friend or related to you.
To see the complete booklet on Phone Scams, go to www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0060-phone scams. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, you can also call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
 

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