Fighting Fraud-A Special Report For Consumers
The United States Senate Special Committee On Aging presents “Fighting Fraud: The Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors” in a 44-page report for consumers. We will highlight some sections. For the full report, click here.
Our nation’s seniors worked hard their entire lives and saved for retirement. Unfortunately, there are many criminals who target them and seek to rob them of their hard-earned savings. Far too many older Americans are being financially exploited by strangers over the telephone, through the mail, and, increasingly, online. Worse yet, these seniors may also be targeted by family members or by people they trust.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has made consumer protection and fraud prevention a major focus of its work. In recent years, the Committee has held hearings examining telephone scams, tax-related schemes, Social Security fraud, and the implications of payday loans and pension advances for seniors, among other issues. The Committee launched a toll-free Fraud Hotline: 1-855-303-9470. By serving as a resource for seniors and others affected by scams, the Hotline has helped increase reporting and awareness of consumer fraud.
In an effort to educate seniors on emerging trends and help protect them from becoming victims, this report features the top ten scams reported in 2015 to the Fraud Hotline. In addition, this report includes resources for consumers who wish to report scams to state and federal agencies.
Top 10 Scams
1 IRS Impersonation Scams
2 Jamaican Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams
3 Unsolicited/Unwanted Phone Calls
4 Computer Scams
5 Identity Theft
6 Grandparent Scams
7 Elder Financial Abuse
8 Government Grant Scams
9 Romance Scams
10 Home Improvement Scams
IRS Impersonation Scam Defined
The IRS released the following tips to help taxpayers identify suspicious calls that may be associated with the IRS imposter scam:
- The IRS will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill to the taxpayer.
- The IRS will never demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving him or her the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.
- The IRS will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
- The IRS will never threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.
- The IRS will never require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Sweepstake Scams Defined
Sweepstakes scams continue to claim senior victims who believe they have won a lottery and only need to take a few actions to obtain their winnings. Scammers will generally contact victims by phone or through the mail to tell them that they have won or have been entered to win a prize. Scammers then require the victims to pay a fee to either collect their supposed winnings or improve their odds of winning the prize
Unsolicited/Unwanted Phone Calls
Even if you are on the Do Not Call Registry, scammers find a way to call. Robocalling is the process of using equipment to mechanically, as opposed to manually, dial phone numbers in sequence. Many of these calls originate outside the country. Here’s how they make it believable: Con artists usually spoof the number from which they are calling to either mask their true identity or take on a new identity. Fraudsters spoof their numbers to make victims believe they are calling from the government or another legitimate entity. In addition, scammers will often spoof numbers to appear as if they are calling from the victims’ home states or local area codes.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published the following tips for consumers to avoid being deceived by caller-ID spoofing:
• Do not give out personal information in response to an incoming call. Identity thieves are clever: they often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors, or government agencies to convince victims to reveal their account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords, and other identifying information.
• If you receive an inquiry from a company or government agency seeking personal information, do not provide it. Instead, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phonebook, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to find out if the entity that supposedly called you actually needs the requested information from you.
Computer Scams Defined
The basic scam involves con artists trying to gain victims’ trust by pretending to be associated with a well-known technology company, such as Microsoft, Apple, or Dell. They then falsely claim that the victims’ computers have been infected with a virus. Con artists convince victims to give them remote access to their computers, personal information, and credit card and bank account numbers so that victims can be “billed” for fraudulent services to fix the virus. In a related scam, individuals surfing the Internet may see a pop-up window on their computer instructing them to contact a tech-support agent. Sometimes, scammers have used the pop-up window to hack into victims’ computers, lock them out, and require victims to pay a ransom to regain control of their computers.
Tips from the FTC to help consumers avoid becoming a victim of a computer-based scam:
• Do not give control of your computer to a third party that calls you out of the blue.
• Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number when they are not even in the same country as you.
• If you want to contact tech support, look for a company’s contact information on its software package or on your receipt.
• Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.
• If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.
• Make sure you have updated all of your computer’s anti-virus software, firewalls, and popup blockers.
All of the scams along with helpful tips, case studies, and resources are presented in the full report. Click here.