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

March Scam of the Month: Contractor Fraud

Spring is the season for home repair and home improvement. Some older homeowners may have a hard time physically and/or financially maintaining their homes. It is because of this that they are targeted by scammers. Most contractors are honest and hardworking but how can you tell? Here are five ways to identify if a contractor is trying to defraud you.

1. “You’ll Need to Pay First”
According to the Better Business Bureau, this is the most common scam reported. The contractor will tell you that materials and equipment need to be ordered. Once you hand over the money, a couple things can happen. One, they disappear. Two, they complete the work carelessly and haphazardly.

2. “Trust Me”
You have hired your contractor, you have sat down and discussed what work you want done and your expectations and the contractor agrees. Now it is time to sign the agreement. You notice some of the details and upgrades are not included. The contractor tells you to “trust me”; it will be taken care of. The next thing you know, the work is not done. Now the contractor tells you that he did not include those extras in the quote he gave you and you will have to pay more money.

3. “We Don’t Need a Permit”
Any significant construction project is required to have building permit. This allows officials to visit occasionally to ensure the work meets safety codes. Dishonest contractors will tell you that a permit is not required. Others will try to have you take out a homeowner’s permit. That would mean lying to authorities about who was doing the work and make you responsible for monitoring the inspections.

4. Unexpected Problems
The construction has started or even finished and suddenly the contractor tells you there were unforeseen issues like termites and now the price has skyrocketed. Sometimes additional fees are legit, but other times dishonest contractors will bid very low to get their foot in the door and then increase the cost later.

5. Extra Materials
This fraud usually comes from paving companies or roofers or painters. They tell you that they have extra materials and they can perform the work dirt-cheap. A couple things can happen. One, they actually do not do the work and take off with your money. Two, they start the work and the job is more involved than they thought and it will cost even more. Third, the work is completed carelessly and in one year your roof is leaking or driveway cracking.

The Legal Aid Society of Middle TN has a detailed booklet about what you need to know before repairing or remodeling your house. Legal Aid Home Repair Booklet. Here are just a few suggestions on how to keep from being a victim of contractor fraud

  • Hire contractors currently licensed from the TN Board of Licensing contractors. Call 1-800-544-7693 to verify the license. You can also ask the Board if they have had any complaints.
  • Ask the Board if the contractor has paid the insurance bond. This will protect you if the company goes out of business or does shoddy work.
  • Use word of mouth. Ask friends, neighbors, etc. for suggestions who did great work.
  • Ask for references and verify those references.
  • Avoid using a contractor that only has a PO Box or answering service.
  • Call the BBB at 615-242-4222 or TN Consumer Affairs Division at 615-741-4737 to see if any complaints have been filed
  • Always get more than one bid from different contractors
  • Never hire “on-the-spot”
  • Never accept a verbal agreement. Always get a written agreement/contract.
  • The contract should not have blank spaces.
  • The contract should include the license number, address and phone numbers, what work is to be done, what kind of materials, estimated completion date, cost, how you will pay, and if there is interest to be paid.
  • Read the contract
  • Never pay cash

Sources: Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and www.houselogic.com

Jury Duty Scam on the Rise

Recently, in Metro Nashville and Davidson County, there has been an increase in the Jury Duty Scam.  The FBI first issued a warning about this swindle in 2006.
In this particular situation, a scammer calls and pretends to be a cop or a court officer and says that you have failed to report to jury duty and a bench or arrest warrant has been issued. To resolve the problem, the caller tells you that you will need to provide private information to “verify” your identity. Your birthdate, social security number, etc. or you can pay a fine to “cancel” the warrant. HANG UP! This is a scam!
Court officers typically correspond with prospective jurors by mail and they will NOT call asking for confidential information or for payment over the phone.
 
A Metro Nashville & Davidson County government website, http://juryduty.nashville.gov/, has also issued a warning on their jury duty page cautioning prospective jurors to disregard these scammers’ attempts and to report it by calling Metro Police Dept. non-emergency line at 615-862-8600.
Tips to protect yourself:
  • Never give out personal information like social security numbers, DOB, etc.
  • Never give out financial information like bank account numbers or credit card information
  • Do not react out of fear. You have the right to verify any requests for information
 
Sources: FBI & Nashville.gov websites

Utility Scams

Utility Scams: What to Look For and How to Protect Yourself
Scammers manipulate people easily with utility scamsbecause everyone is dependent on utilities. Water, electricity, heat & air conditioning are things most people rely on daily. Scammers use fear tactics to make people react and do things they normally wouldn’t do, and senior customers are prime targets.  Here are some tips to protect yourself:
  • If someone shows up at your door from a utility company, ask them to show their ID badge and make them wait outside (with the door locked) while you contact the company to verify their information. Utility employees typically wear uniforms and/or carry ID badges and company vehicles are marked with a logo and/or vehicle number.
  • If you receive a call threatening to cut off power if you do not pay, hang up immediately!  Call your utility company’s billing department and check your account.
  • Notify the utility company of any possible scam attempts.
  • Never give out your utility account number(s) or banking information.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your local police department.
Remember, scammers typically use fear tactics to scare victims. Don’t fall for it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Sources: NES Power News and policygenius.com

IRS Scams

December 2016
There is a growing awareness of a common scam where someone claiming to be from the IRS calls, issues a threat and demands payment. The AARP Fraud Watch Network has issued a warning that a new twist on this scam is coming through the US Postal Service.
The scam is an “official looking” letter from the IRS stating that you owe taxes related to the Affordable Care Act from the 2015 tax year. This notice is labeled “CP2000” and instructs you to send payment to the “IRS” care of an Austin, TX post office.
If the IRS sends you a legitimate letter, you will always be given a telephone number for you to call and resolve the issue. Also, authentic letters instruct you to make the payments payable to the US Department of the Treasury, NEVER to the IRS. A CP2000 letter issued by the IRS is when income or payment information does not match what you submitted on the tax form; not the Affordable Care Act.
This scam is also been transmitted through email. Remember, the IRS will NEVER contact you via email or by phone.
If you receive a letter like this and have questions, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. If you know you don’t owe any taxes and want to file a scam report you can call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or online at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Complaint Assistant www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Sources: AARP Fraud Watch Network

Protect Yourself During Medicare Open Enrollment

November 2016

It’s important to know what to watch for during open enrollment, when the nation’s 55 million Medicare recipients have the opportunity to change their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. In addition to the challenge of going through the many plan options, experts say Medicare open enrollment is prime time for scam artists. Here are a few tips to protect yourself.

  • Guard your Medicare number, which is typically your Social Security number.  Protect it as you would your bank and credit card information.

 

  • Remember Medicare will NEVER call or email you requesting personal information or product offers. If you receive a call or email from someone claiming to be with Medicare that should be an immediate tip-off that you’re are dealing with a con artist.

 

  • If an insurance agent visits your home to sell or endorse any Medicare product, they are acting illegally.

 

The Five Most Common Medicare Scams

  1. Switching plans is a must.  No!Experts suggest that checking out your options each year is the best way to make sure you have the best plan for you. You are allowed to stay with your current plan and opt to make no changes.
  2. Medicare is changing cards. No! If you are approached by someone who says you need to update your information to receive your new card, you are dealing with a scam. Remember, Medicare will NEVER call or email you requesting personal information.
  3. For you, a special price. No!Con artists like to use time-sensitive sale pitches to scam seniors into acting quickly and not thinking about the deal. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. To shop or enroll in legitimate Medicare plans use the plan finder at www.medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE.
  4. Health fair scams. No!Another ploy scammers use is to offer a free gift. All you need to do is sign up with your name and Medicare number. Remember, NEVER give out your Medicare number.
  5. Phony organizations. No!Be alert when you receive calls from people that say they are from your doctor’s office or local health agencies.  In some instances, scammers will illegally gain access to your medical information. Then, they call you with just enough details to ease your mind that they are authentic and cause you to reveal even more details, which then leads to fraud.

 

To report Medicare scams call 1-800 Medicare or the Office of the Inspector General at 1‑800‑HHS‑TIPS (1‑800‑447‑8477).

For free and objective Medicare assistance in Tennessee call SHIP (TN State Health Insurance  Assitance Program) at 1-877-801-0044

 

Sources: US News and World Report

Scams?! Why are Seniors Targeted and How to Prevent Fraud

October 2016
Scam artists prey on older adults. Why are seniors more likely to be targeted? Here are some reasons:
  • Seniors are more likely to have excellent credit, an established savings account and own their home. All of these make them attractive to scammers.
  • Seniors were raised in an era that taught individuals to be polite and trusting. Scammers exploit these qualities, knowing that it is hard to say “no” or even hang up the telephone.
  • Older adults that have been the victim of a scam or con, are less likely to report the crime. Many do not even know they have been conned, or they are ashamed or simply do not know how to report the fraud.
  • Loneliness is also a factor for some seniors. Often, they are grateful to have someone to talk to, not even considering that the “nice person” is preying on them.
Fraud against older adults is a serious problem affecting thousands every year. Seniors and caregivers can help protect themselves and/or loved ones from scam artists and fraud.  These tips can help prevent you from being a victim.
  • If you are a concerned caregiver, involve yourself in financial decisions as much as possible.
  • Never give out banking information, credit card or social security numbers
  • When speaking with a salesperson, ask for the company’s name, address and telephone number. If they do not want to provide it, do business with someone else.
  • If you receive a call from a “government agency” requesting money, ask for a certified letter on official letterhead.
  • Never hire someone who shows up at your door. If you are told the plumbing or roof needs repair, the scammer might take the money and never do the work.
  • Avoid making “on-the-spot” decisions. Legitimate companies will not have an issue with you taking time to look into the deal.
  • Stay away from investments that promise huge profits with no risk. Legitimate investment companies will warn you of investment risks.
  • Register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call list by calling 1-888-382-1222 or online at www.donotcall.gov. This will help limit calls from solicitors.
 
Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation and AgingCare.com

Internet Fraud

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July 2016
Internet Fraud is in the top ten list of financial scams targeting older adults, largely because computers and the internet may be unfamiliar terrain. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus scanning software often fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will give the scammer access to information on the user’s computer.
 
Another frequent trap is email/phishing scams where a senior receives an email message that appears to be from a legitimate company or institution (i.e., bank or credit card company) asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. Don’t fall for it! One way to check the origin of the email is to click on the sender’s address: nine times out of ten it’s a personal email (e.g., a student with an address ending in .edu), not someone from the company.
 
Another frequent email trap is a message that appears to be from the IRS designed to trick taxpayers into providing personal information. In fact, in February of this year, the IRS warned that these email and texting scams have surged 400% so far this year! The messages typically ask for data related to tax refunds, filing status or seek confirmation of personal data (e.g., social security number or IRS personal identification number). When consumers click on the email link, they are sent to what appears to be a government website, but is really a fake site used by identity thieves. The IRS urges people not to click on these email links.
 
IT professionals recommend running a script blocking program (e.g., No Script) on web browsers to prevent spy scripts & malware. They also suggest using an anti-virus program to run a full scan daily on all computers, and to make sure that email scans are turned on so that attachments are scanned. Lastly, always check the email sender address and website address to make sure it is a trusted, legitimate source.
 
Source: National Council on Aging

Spring Scams

76806768Scam of the Month – April 2016
 
SPRING SCAMS
Spring is here and so are seasonal scammers.  Two things to watch out for this month are people who show up at your doorstep offering to put down mulch or inspect your roof and tax scams. One recent caller to COA reported a mulch truck following her as she walked in her neighborhood and asking if she needed mulch. He came to her home, gave her a verbal price per bag, then put down the mulch. The next thing she knew, he handed her an “astronomical” bill which she refused to pay, then she had to negotiate a lower amount which she said was still too high. A similar scam involves roofers who come to your door and offer to inspect your roof, then CUT a piece and show you it’s damaged, and try to get you to pay for repairs. The guy may fake repairs, or he may just leave with your money.
 
You’re encouraged to NEVER let a stranger into your home, and to use your local Better Business Bureau page to check out EVERY business you do business with; BEFORE you make the deal or give them any money.
 
Another scam reported on the BBB website warns consumers to be wary this tax season as scammers are using new tricks to cheat you out of your money and your personal information.  Scammers use emails posing as reputable tax preparation programs, accounting programs, banking organizations, and even the IRS. The emails are titled: Update, Thanks, Accepted, Invoices, Dispute, Error, Refund, Account Activity, Verify, Important, etc. Their intention is to get you to react quickly and not analyze the situation. People are also reporting calls from someone posing as an IRS agent saying “this is a final notice” and “the IRS is filing lawsuits against you.” The person then asks you to call a number to find out more about the case.
 
Before you react quickly, BBB advises you to look at an email address closely, and make sure it is the correct one for the business. If it directs you to another link, website, number to call, or address, check it out through another source to make sure it belongs to the right business. If all else fails, call the number directly. If you receive an email with an attachment, do not automatically open it. Run your anti-virus and make sure you have updated your computer with the latest anti-phishing updates. Use browsers that have anti-phishing security features. If there are links in the email, you should be able to hover over the link without opening it to see the web address.
 
Again, if it looks suspicious don’t open it. You can go to the website listed and login to your account to find updates or information without opening the email sent to you. If the link asks for your information, try going directly to the site yourself and check the address and compare it to the address asking for your information. Many scammers will use much of the correct address but there is usually a distinct difference. In any case if you have a question, don’t do it. Better safe than sorry!
 
Sources: Better Business Bureau 
and Mix 92Q