Scams, Frauds and Rip-offs November 2008
Scams, Frauds and Rip-offs
Fraud and scams have always been around, and have especially been targeted to vulnerable populations including older adults. Every new benefit that is introduces seems to be followed by scammers. We have seen this in recent years with Medicare Part D—“we will help you enroll… just give us your social security number”, with the Stimulus Rebate—“send us your information and we will get your check quicker”, and now with the economic crisis there are all kinds of alarms about your bank accounts. The best way to protect yourself is to become educated and stay wary. There are more things you can do to protect yourself than I have room to cover here. PSRC will offer seminars on this area in coming months and recommends these websites:
New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance: For issues with bank, insurance and real estate fraud. 1-800-446-7467, http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/index.html
Fraud Guides: All areas. http://www.fraudguides.com/consumer_fraud_main.asp
Scamming happens in all areas of life, from home repair to internet, print and telephone offers, auto sales, and investment schemes. Don’t let it happen to you!
Here are some helpful tips:
If it seems like a way to get quick money, it won’t benefit you, and if it looks like too good an offer to be true, it is likely to be false. Examples include announcements of being a lottery winner, or a recipient of funds in a foreign bank, if you only send funds to help release the money, or “free vacations.” It is easy to be wary when you get an alert on “security issues” with PayPal, e-Bay or bank accounts you don’t have, but harder when you do have an account. Similar scams may come by mail. The scammer may steal company letterhead or logo, or use something similar. In such cases, it is often the language or nature of the request that should make you suspicious.
No bank or government entity will ask for your personal information on the internet. This includes passwords, social security numbers, credit and bank account numbers. Never send information with “reply sender.” When you must use your social to verify an account, complain and see if they will accept the last 4 digits only.
When in doubt, call! Call your bank or the organization requesting information to see if it is a genuine request. See if they will take the information over the phone instead. Ask a friend or family member before spending money or giving information. Call PSRC if you need help.
Protect your personal information. Do not throw it in the trash or recycling without shredding. Do not leave it out when people are in your home (sorry, but even family members can be troubled enough to steal from you). Put mail directly into USPS post boxes rather than in your mailbox.
Do not carry your social security card or credit cards you rarely use. Cancel credit cards you will not use. Photocopy the contents of your wallet and keep it in a secure place. Opt out of pre-approved card offers at 1-888-5opt-out.
Check bank and credit card statements monthly to check for unfamiliar activity. Check your credit report annually (free):
- If you think you have been scammed or your identity stolen: www.annualcreditreport.com
Build a relationship with people who assist you, whether in the home, at the bank, or sell you major purchases.
Trust your intuition. Don’t give money to strangers! If you are buying a car and the sales person asks you for cash for “extras”, be wary. If someone asks for a cash deposit and gives you no paperwork for services to be rendered, be suspicious. Hold off on making payment until you can check credentials. All home contractors are required by law to be registered in NJ and should have documentation. Any sales person should have a business card with their contact information on it. Scammers use pressure and guilt. Legitimate sales people will back down when you say “No thank you.”
1. Report it immediately to any institutions involved (bank, credit card company, etc).
2. File a police report with local police.
3. Save all documentation, take notes on all phone calls related to the situation. Get names of people you speak with. Seek help from Mercer County Consumer Affairs: 609-989-6671.
Taking some simple precautions and being a wary consumer can help you avoid a lot of trouble. Be safe!
Susan W. Hoskins LCSW
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