January Scam of the Month

 

Tax Season = Tax Scams

Last month, the IRS warned of a new email scam that seemed to target Hotmail account users. With this scheme, phishing emails were sent out under the guise of being from the IRS. If you used a link within that email, it redirected you to a Microsoft page, where the user was asked to enter personal and/or financial information.

The websites associated with this particular scam have since been disabled but it is still important to be vigilant. As a new tax season begins, keep in mind scammers will be revving up their efforts to steal YOUR money.

Here are some reminders about the IRS. They will NEVER:

  • call about past due taxes without having mailed several notices first
  • call to demand payment including threats to involve law enforcement and have you arrested
  • call or email asking you to divulge personal and/or financial information
  • require payment without allowing you to appeal or even question the amount due
  • require you to use a specific payment method like a pre-paid debit card
  • ask for your credit/debit card and/or bank information over the phone

Sources: Forbes and Internal Revenue Service

December Scam of the Month: The 12 Holiday Scams

Tis the Season for Holiday Cheatin’

While we shop and cook and hang holiday lights, scammers are busy looking for their next targets. The Better Business Bureau has issued a list of scams to be on the lookout for this holiday season and tips on how to keep yourself from being the next victim.  
1. Online Shopping: Most stores have switched to chip reading credit card machines to reduce the risk of fraud and skimming. However, scammers are now focusing their efforts online. To protect yourself and your money, financial experts recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card when making online purchases. 
2. Look-Alike Websites: It’s very easy for scammers to mimic real websites.  Look for the https and lock symbol at the top of the webpage; the “s” stands for secure. Also, look at the spelling of the web address. It is extremely easy for tricksters to change or add an extra letter to make it look legitimate.
3. Fake Shipping Notifications:  This scam is used with different techniques. You may receive an email with attachments or links that could download malware to your computer to steal your personal information. You could also receive a nondescript postcard where you are instructed to call the number on the card which could lead to you revealing private information and/or when the house is vacant. Don’t fall for it!
4. Phony Charities: Scammers like to take advantage of the holiday spirit by using fake charity solicitations in your email, by phone and on social media sites. You can verify charities at www.give.org or givingmatters.guidestar.org/.
5. Temporary Holiday Jobs: A lot of companies need additional help during the holidays. Steer clear of job postings that ask you to share personal information or pay for job leads.
6. Emergency Scams: Be extremely skeptical if you receive a call from a “relative” saying they have been arrested, kidnapped, or hospitalized while traveling. Never send money unless you can verify the information with another family member first.
7. Letters from Santa: There are several reputable companies that offer personalized letters from Santa Claus; however, scammers like to use this as a way to obtain personal and financial information from parents and grandparents.
8. Unusual Forms of Payment: Be wary of anyone asking for prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, etc. as a form of payment. These transactions cannot be traced or refunded.
9. Travel Scams: Use caution when searching for travel bargains. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
10. Social Media Gift Exchange: It sounds fun to purchase one gift and receive so much more in return; however, this holiday “fun” is actually a pyramid scheme which is illegal.
11. Gift Card Scams: Gift cards are always a great idea for the holidays. Just remember to be vigilant. Avoid gift cards displayed in the open. If you choose one that is in a package, inspect the package or open it in front of the cashier to ensure it has not been replaced with a phony. Keep your receipt and register the card online with a new PIN (if possible). 
12. Online Pet Shopping: During the holidays a lot of people look for the perfect gift which could be a pet. Be skeptical of online pet sales. You might receive a pet from a “puppy mill” which could increase the likelihood of poor health, or you may receive nothing at all.
Source: Better Business Bureau
Keep your holidays safe and jolly by not falling for these follies!

September Scam of the Month: Charity Scams Awareness

Tips to Avoid Charity Scams

As people all over the world try to help survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma with donations of food and water, clothes, shelter and money, we want to remind you to be aware of charity scams. Scammers will use any method to manipulate your generosity. 
Here are a few tips to keep in mind in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes:
  • Chose a trusted organization. Avoid new agencies that have been established for the specific crisis.  Be cautious of organizations with names similar to well-known charities.
  • Be on the lookout for phony emails, phone calls, social media accounts and crowdfunding requests. That includes email attachments from familiar contacts.
  • Evaluate the charity. If you are unsure about a particular organization, ask for the official name, phone number and website. Then you can verify the agency via reputable websites like the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, etc. (see list below). A legitimate nonprofit will be happy to give you time to verify their mission.
  • Understanding crowdfunding requests. Some examples of crowdfunding websites are GoFundMe, YouCaring, Kickstarter, etc. Most of these sites do very little vetting in regards to donation requests. In some instances, scammers start donation requests for a “friend” or “family” that actually have nothing to do with that person. Unless you know the person personally and can verify that the funds will go to them, forgo that donation.
  • Avoid giving cash. Cash can be lost or stolen. A check or credit card record is helpful for tax purposes. DO NOT give out your credit card/bank information to a solicitor. If you write a check, make sure it’s made out to the organization NOT a person soliciting on behalf of the agency.
  • Ask questions. How will the money be spent? What percentage of donations go to the people and how much goes to overhead or fundraising? You may want to compare these costs between different nonprofits before making a decision. You also have the right to make your donation a “designated donation”, which means the organization can only use your donation for what you designate. Just make sure you notate that in writing.
You may report suspected fraud to The National Center of Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or email to disaster@leo.gov. This line is staffed 24 hours a day.
Verification Websites for Nonprofits
 
Sources: Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov and the U.S. Dept. of Justice

November Scam of the Month: Virtual Kidnapping

Virtual kidnapping is where the caller states that the grandchild has been taken and you need to pay ransom for them to be released. In this situation, no one has actually been kidnapped. The scammer is attempting to use fear and deception to elicit a quick response before the scam falls apart.
 The FBI has issued a warning that they have seen an increase in this particular scam. Years ago when this fraud began, Mexican prisoners specifically targeted a small group of people. Now, scammers are targeting anyone. The FBI offers several tips on how to recognize the scam and protect yourself.
 
Possible Indicators of a Virtual Kidnapping Call
  • Scammers will attempt to keep you on the phone
  • The calls will not come from the pretend victim’s phone
  • They will try to keep you from calling the person who has been “kidnapped”
  • The ransom money will need to be paid by wire transfer to Mexico
  • The ransom amounts might drop quickly
Possible Options if You Receive a Virtual Kidnapping Call
  • Hang up the phone
  • Don’t use your loved one’s name
  • Ask to speak with the “kidnapped” victim directly. If they do talk, listen to the voice carefully.
  • Do not share information about yourself or family
  • Ask only questions the “victim” would know
  • Attempt to contact the supposed victim and ask them to call you from their cell phone
  • Slow the scammers down by repeating their instructions, tell them you need time to get the money together
  • Do not agree to pay the ransom demands, by wire transfer or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous
 If you think a real kidnapping has taken place or you believe you have received a virtual kidnapping scamcall your nearest FBI office or local police immediately. You may also report suspected criminal activity online at tips.fbi.gov.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.gov)

May Scam: Card Skimming Theft

Card Skimming Theft and

How to Protect Yourself

Debit and credit card skimming is on the rise because it is easy for scammers. It is difficult to detect because the criminals place a skimming device over existing card slots at banks or gas stations. Once, you slide your card, the device captures your account information. Some also have a tiny camera to see your PIN as you enter it. Once they obtain your card information, it only costs scammers a small amount to order a card online that is linked to your account.

U.S. Secret Service estimates that identity theft scammers steal billions of dollars each year through skimming.  They can be found anywhere. At ATM’s, gas pumps, even inside stores. Here are some suggestions from experts:

  1. If an ATM machine doesn’t look right to you, you can literally tug on the card slot to see if it’s loose.  Crooks often install their skimming devices right over the real one, and many consumers have had them come off right in their hands.
  2. Cover your hand while entering your PIN number, so that if criminals have installed a surveillance camera, they will not be able to see your secret code.
  3. Experts suggest, “re-pinning”; which is changing your PIN; your credit and debit cards every six months.
  4. When it’s time for a new credit or debit card, you can ask for a fresh card number.  This will stop the cycle of theft if your old card has already been compromised.
  5. Thieves often install skimmers inside gas pump credit card slots.  To thwart them, pay inside or pay cash.
  6. Finally, consider using a credit card rather than a debit card, so that if crooks DO access your account, they are stealing the bank’s money not your own money.  That way your own funds won’t be compromised while the bank investigates.

Sources: CyberGuy and ABC News

 

April Scam: Can You Hear Me?


Can you Hear Me

“Can you hear me?”

DO NOT respond instead hang up the phone. This is a new scam circling the country, one that only requires you to say “YES.”

The FCC has warned that if you receive a call with this question, disconnect the call immediately. Your response is recorded and later used as a voice signature to make charges to your credit card or bank accounts via the telephone.

According to the complaints the FCC has received, the callers may impersonate familiar companies or organizations to get you to answer and talk. If you have already received a call like this, make sure you check your financial accounts and bills to look for unauthorized charges. In addition, you can report the call to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker and the FCC Consumer Help Center.

Every month, 2.4 billion people are harassed by robocalls.  The FCC voted last month to begin a rulemaking process to eliminate robocalls. Until then, use the steps below to protect yourself.

FCC Robocall Tips

  1. Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail
  2. Hang up if a caller asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls. It’s often a recording. Scammers often use that tactic to identify and target live respondents.
  3. If you do answer a call that winds up being a scam, write the number down and add that to your FCC complaint.
  4. Ask your telephone company if it has a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage your provider to offer one. You can also visit the FCC’s website at https://www.fcc.gov/, for information and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.
  5. Register all of your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or at https://www.donotcall.gov/

Sources: USA Today and ABC News

Public comment re: SeniorTrust funds

home4Public comment re: SeniorTrust funds

The Davidson County Chancery Court is seeking public comments and suggestions on nonprofit organizations in Tennessee which serve the elderly. Ultimately, these comments will be used to start a funding process for the statewide distribution of charitable funds to nonprofits & programs in TN serving elderly (from legal settlement State of TN vs. SeniorTrust and ElderTrust).  

Please consider writing to support COA as unbiased, trusted source for identifying needs and being a catalyst for collaborative solutions for older adults and caregivers.

Comments should be submitted:

  • via mail to Davidson County Clerk and Master, Attn: Part 3 Clerk, 1 Public Square, Suite 308, Nashville, TN 37201; or
  • electronically by filling in the information at
    http://chanceryclerkandmaster.nashville.gov/contact-us/. Please include “SeniorTrust” in the subject line.

More information is available here.

The deadline to give input is June 17, 2016.

Churches Respond to Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Older Adults

Center for Excellence in Aging and Older Adult Ministries  is hosting a seminar where church leaders will learn about the different types of Elder Abuse and the warning signs. Participants will also learn about mandatory reporting, caregiving concerns and steps they and their congregation can take to become proactive in ministry helping to prevent Elder Abuse.

Presenter

Rev. Dr. Richard H. Gentzler, Jr.

Director ENCORE Ministries

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

8:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Cost: $25.00

Deadline for registration is April 5, 2016

To register, please call or email Joel Emerson at McKendree Village

joel.emerson@mckendree.com   615-871-8843

 All seminars meet at the Towers at

McKendree Village

4343 Lebanon Pike

Hermitage, TN 37067

These seminars are funded by McKendree Village and the Golden Cross Foundation.