The 7 Most Common Scams and Frauds of 2019 That Seniors Should Know About
There are so many scams going on these days that it’s tough to figure out what’s real and who’s just out to get your money or personal information. Scams seem to be more sophisticated than ever! We did some research to sort out the most common scams and frauds of 2019.
Please take a few minutes to become familiar with these scams so that you don’t fall for them! Additionally, never give out your personal information over the internet or over the phone.
Medicare Fraud with Genetic Testing
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General sent out an alert in June 2019 about Medicare fraud schemes that involved genetic, or DNA, testing. It sounds pretty strange, but these scammers will try to collect your saliva, name, date of birth, Medicare number, and even your insurance information.
Why? So that they can bill Medicare thousands of dollars under your name.
Scammers might offer free ice cream or gift cards at retirement communities, senior nutrition centers, or Medicare expos to anyone who will listen to their lecture on free DNA or genetic testing. Sort of sounds like a timeshare pitch, doesn't it?
Don't fall for it! Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready says that Medicare will pay for genetic testing if it's medically necessary. The scammers will downplay this and sometimes completely ignore the medical necessity criteria.
The Commissioner gives the following advice to make sure you don't accidentally fall for this scam:
- Don't accept any genetic testing kits that are mailed to you unless it was ordered by your doctor.
- Do not give out your Medicare number to anyone who offers free genetic testing.
- Look for charges on your Medicare Summary Notice statements for unnecessary tests or screenings that you didn't want or didn't receive.
Social Security Spoofing Phone Calls
In 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reported a significant increase in fraudulent phone calls from scammers who claim to work for the SSA.
These callers are ultimately trying to convince the recipients to call another phone number, and they're very threatening about it. The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, says that these callers threaten that the citizen will be arrested or face other legal action if they fail the call the provided phone number.
They guise their scam by saying the citizen has experienced improper or illegal activity with their Social Security number (SSN).
In addition, don't be fooled by the number the scammers call from. Often times, they are able to spoof the caller ID so that it displays SSA's national customer service phone number, which is 1-800-772-1213.
Be cautious, and know that a SSA staff member would never threaten you or ask you to call another phone number. If you receive a suspicious call, report it online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
Banking scams come in all shapes and sizes, and you’re bound to experience at least one in your lifetime. The goal of these scams is to get access to your bank account, and unfortunately, they happen all the time, no matter the year.
The scammer might try a number of things, including:
- A phone call where the caller explains your bank account has been compromised, and they just need you to confirm your account number to double check
- A text saying your bank account has been overdrawn with a link that takes you a website where you input your account number
- A company sets up an automatic debit from your bank account as part of a free trial or to collect lottery winnings
- An email message that asks you to verify your bank account or debit card number
- A check is sent to you, but if you cash it, you might be authorizing the purchase of items or you may be signing up for a loan you didn’t want
Report any fake checks you receive in the mail to the US Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-382-4357).
If you’re not sure whether a phone call, text, or email is real or fake, call your bank and ask! And never click any links in a text or an email that ask you to verify your bank account information.
National Disaster Scams
As you know, scammers are heartless, and they'll use even the most debilitating of times to scam you out of your money. A recent scam comes from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in preparation for hurricane season.
When a national disaster or hurricane occurs, fraudulent schemes generally begin with full force. Scams come in the form of phone calls, social media messages, e-mails, or even in-person!
Some scammers pretend to be charities to collect donations, some set up fake websites impersonating charities for donations, and some even claim to work for the IRS to help victims file loss claims and get tax refunds.
The IRS says that if you've been a victim of a disaster, you should call their IRS toll-free disaster assistance phone number (866-562-5227). There, you can ask questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues.
In addition, to donate to a charity, you can verify qualified charities via the Tax Exempt Organization Search: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search.
IRS Imposter Scams
In the all-too-famous IRS Imposter Scams, someone calls you and pretends that they work for the IRS. They tell you that you owe taxes, and if you don’t pay them, you could be arrested.
This is completely fake! The IRS would never call you out of the blue. You would receive a notice in the mail before you’d ever get a phone call about unpaid taxes.
If you’re concerned that the phone call is real, ask the caller to provide their name, badge number, and callback number. Then, call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to verify that the caller is a real IRS employee.
Always be suspicious of any calls asking you to pay money over the phone or on the spot.
New Medicare Card Scams
While the new Medicare cards were created to eliminate your Social Security number and replace it with a new Medicare number – which is going to protect your identity – scammers see this as an opportunity.
Scammers will call you and try to get your personal information claiming it has to do with your new Medicare card.
Medicare will never call you and ask for your personal information in order to send your new Medicare card. It will come in the mail automatically. Anyone that calls and asks for information, money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits is a scammer and should be ignored and reported to Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
While many reputable companies out there do legitimate sweepstakes, there are more scammers than not.
These scammers hold fake lotteries, sweepstakes, and contests in exchange for your personal information or even money!
They claim that you’ve won a prize, but you only need to pay a small fee to collect it.
If you want to enter a sweepstakes, make sure it’s being held by a company you trust. Beware of any lotteries or sweepstakes that show up on your computer via a pop-up.
These prize scammers might also try to reach you via postal mail, email, the phone, or text message. While the prize can seem awesome, pinch yourself and be reminded that it’s likely a scam!
You can report these types of scams to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.
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