Scam Prevention - Council on Aging

Every day a new scam surfaces aimed at older adults.
The best defensive strategy is knowledge and awareness of criminal behavior.

Scam Prevention

We have updated the scam brochure and we are proud to announce a new Spanish version is now available. For invaluable tips click on the buttons below. 

This publication was made possible by support from FiftyForward, Jackson National Life, The Community Foundation of Middle TN, West End Home Foundation, and The Memorial Foundation.

Tips for Preventing Scams

•Resist sympathy lines (a stranger saying her purse was stolen & could you give her a ride to your bank or some money.) If someone’s purse is stolen, contact the police department.
•Anyone having a driver’s license, social security or credit card stolen should make a police report immediately.
•Never be pressured into withdrawing large amounts of money.
•Always read a document before you sign it. If you don’t understand it, get it into the hands of a trusted person who can help you. Don’t be pressured into signing anything.
•Never lend your identification, credit cards or ATM card to anyone.
•Do research before you invest your money. Make certain you are dealing with an established, reliable investment firm.
•Check the reliability of people you are dealing with; ask for references and contact them.
•Keep blank checks in a safe place and don’t sign until you are ready to use it.
•Don’t leave money or valuables in plain view.
•Know your rights with door-to-door sales. Under the law, you may cancel a door-to-door sale within three business days of the sale by notifying the seller in writing.
•Beware of verbal promises. Remember that oral promises are not usually binding if a written signed contract does not agree.

Telephone Sales Pitches: Legitimate or Fraud?

It’s sometimes hard to tell if a sales pitch is real or not. You can’t judge by the tone of someone’s voice or how friendly or sincere the person seems. It’s probably a scam if the caller:
• Informs you that you’ve won a prize, but you must pay a fee, customs or taxes. Legitimate sweepstakes or prize offers don’t ask for payment because it’s illegal to do so.
•Says that you have to take the offer immediately or you’ll miss the opportunity. Legitimate companies don’t pressure people to act without time to look into the deal.
• Refuses to send you written information before you commit. Legitimate companies do not mind sending information about what they are offering.
• Claims that you can make huge profits in an investment with no risk. All investments are risky; legitimate companies must relay possible risks.
• Asks for a donation but won’t say how the money will be used and/or what the charity does.
•Asks for cash. Legitimate companies don’t demand cash, but con artists do since they want to be hard to trace.
•Asks for your social security number. Unless you contacted them, legitimate companies NEVER ask for this.

•Asks for your credit card or bank account number when you aren’t buying anything or paying with those accounts. Legitimate companies only ask for information to bill you or debit your account for purchases you’ve agreed to make.
•Offers a loan or credit card or to “repair” your bad credit if you pay an upfront fee. Legitimate companies do not demand payment in advance; no one can get bad information removed from a credit file if it is accurate

Identity Protection

Tips for Protecting Your Identity

Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information without your permission.

To prevent identity theft:
•Destroy receipts that contain your credit card or bank account numbers.
•Destroy credit card offers with your bank account or Social Security number.
•Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
•Never give anyone your Social Security number or credit card number over the phone — unless you initiated the call.
•Trust your instincts—If you receive a piece of mail with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam designed to take
money or personal information from you. Ignore it.
•Do not give out any financial or personal information through email. If you get an email message asking for this information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. This is called “phishing” and is an attempt to scam you.
•Order a copy of your credit report to insure no accounts have been opened that you did not authorize. Everyone is entitled by law to a FREE copy of their report once each year.
•Check your bank statements carefully for unauthorized transactions.
• Cancel your ATM card if you don’t use it.
•Don’t endorse a check until you are in the bank.
•Use direct deposit, especially for your social security check.

If you think your identity has been stolen, take these steps:

1. Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit
bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.

Equifax 1-800-525-6285

Experian 1-888-397-3742

TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with
or opened fraudulently.
3. File a police report and get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

Helpful Numbers
TN Dept. of Commerce & Insurance

For complaints about unfair trade practices, deception, fraud, or illegal practices.

Legal Aid Society
Free legal assistance by lawyers and paralegals.

Middle TN Better Business Bureau
Information on companies to determine reliability of business, complaint assistance, fraud seminars, and charity evaluations.

National “Do Not Call” Registry
Dial from the number you want to register on the Do Not Call registry, or visit the website at

Scam of the Month Email Alerts

We offer a monthly email service to inform those interested about scams targeting the elderly.

 *COA will not share or sell your email information to any third party.

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