Con artists have probably been around for hundreds of years; but until the advent of reliable mail service, most people were unlikely to cross paths with one. Diligent efforts to clean up mail fraud have pushed scammers onto the Internet where opportunity and lack of regulation have opened a floodgate of fraudulent activities.
Bogus contests, identity theft scams, unsolicited requests for donations, and impersonation scams abound on the web. Knowing scammer tricks and what fraud experts look for can help older adults identify scams when they land in your inbox and avoid being victimized.
Scammer Tricks to Watch For:
- Impersonation scams like the popular grandparent scam count on the victim's panicked reaction to seemingly dire circumstances. Refuse to panic. If you get a plea for help from a grandchild or friend, take time to call family members or the person's cell phone to verify his location and circumstances. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a hospital, lawyer, or police officer, verify contact information on the Internet and make a few calls to get the facts.
- Sweepstakes scams rely on our human desire to get something for nothing, which should make your scam radar start humming right away. Remember, you have to enter to win. Its a scam if you're named a winner for a contest you didn't enter. Legitimate online contests will clearly state contest start and end dates, entry rules, judging date and criteria, prize descriptions, retail value, the sponsor's name and address, and include a legal disclaimer. Legitimate contests don't ask for up-front payments or issue partial awards and shouldn't ask for personal information.
- Medical supply and Medicare scams usually begin with an unsolicited phone call. Legitimate providers will not ask for personal information or verification of information over the phone or Internet.
Now you know how to protect yourself. If you ever are uncertain about providing your personal information, contact the company's main number or fraud department for help, or simply ask a loved one for assistance. You have worked hard your entire life so you can enjoy your retirement; don't allow anyone to take that away from you!