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Be aware of these common financial scams

The Savings Game

We often read about financial scams targeting the elderly because they are perceived to be easy victims, but it’s not just seniors who are vulnerable, of course.

The Senate Committee on Aging has identified the top scams that targeted the elderly and other age groups in 2018. If you believe you have been a target of any scam, report the information to the Senate Committee on Aging at its website, www.aging.senate.gov. You also can call the committee’s fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470.

Be wary of these scams and ensure your parents and grandparents are well-informed about these attempts to steal their money.

IRS impersonations: A scammer claims that you owe back taxes and penalties and threatens arrest or home foreclosure unless the person pays immediately. The IRS would never contact you by phone or email. You can be sure that if you are contacted in this way, it is not the IRS and you are being scammed. Do not give any information.

Robocalls and unsolicited phone calls: People are being inundated with robocalls by scammers to make it seem that the call originates in the consumer’s state or local area code. You can call your local phone company to determine if you can block these calls.

Sweepstakes scams: A fraudster calls to tell you you have won a contest and if you pay an up-front-fee, you will receive a prize. If you are asked to pay an up-front fee, it is a scam and you have not won anything.

Computer tech support scams: The scammer claims to work for a well-known tech company. He or she says your computer has been infected with a virus and he or she needs to get remote access to your computer. There may be a hefty charge for the service.

Never grant a caller remote access to your computer. Once in, the hacker can install malware that can search for banking information and more. If you think you have a virus, find an expert to check your computer out. Hang up immediately if someone calls and claims your computer has a virus and never click on popups that insist your computer has been compromised. Offer no information.

Elder financial abuse: These scammers can be a family member, caregiver, financial planner or other familiar person. Or they may approach you by mail, Internet or phone. Before you accept financial advice you are not comfortable with, use other independent sources with financial expertise.

Emergency scams: A scammer pretends to be the victim’s grandchild (or other relative or friend) and claims he or she needs money for an emergency.

Romance scams: A fraudster initiates a relationship via online dating sites, and asks for money to pay for a trip to visit the victim or to cover medical expenses. Never give money to someone you don’t know well.

Social Security impersonation: A fraudster makes contact by phone or email claiming to represent the SSA and asks consumers for personal information such as Social Security numbers, date of birth and/or bank account information. SSA will not contact you this way.

Impending lawsuit scams: A stranger calls claiming to work for a local, state or federal law enforcement agency and tells the victim there is a warrant out for his or her arrest, and the person must pay a fine. Never give money just because someone says you owe it.

Identity theft: A scammer makes unauthorized credit card purchases, steals money from bank accounts and/or accesses a victim’s Medicare or other health-care accounts. Make sure you protect personal information related to all your financial accounts.

Avoid using public WiFi for banking and other sensitive matters and use two-factor authentication on your financial accounts, if it’s available. Check your accounts weekly online, and if you notice any unusual activity, call your financial institution. If you suspect fraud, place an alert through Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. Also, be sure to check your credit report; you can do so for free once a year with one of the major credit reporting agencies.

Elliot Raphaelson welcomes your questions and comments at raphelliot@gmail.com.

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