Between the Facebook data breach discovered at the end of September that affected 50 million users or the Click2Go security breach with payments made to the City of Tyler Water Utilities discovered at the end of August, it seems Fraud Prevention is a hot topic we cannot escape.
Older Americans are estimated to average a loss of $36.5 billion each year to financial scams and abuse, according to CNBC. Studies also show that in 2017 alone, nearly 17 million people fell victim to identity fraud.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family from fraud? The first step is to be aware of the most common threats.
Phony Computer Virus:Also known as “scareware” this is usually revealed with several pop-up messages on your screen that say your computer is infected with a virus. Sometimes, your on-screen scan will start showing all the red flags “found.” Often this virus offers a “helpful expert” who is just a phone call away. These “tech-support personnel” who answer the phone during your panic will ask for hundreds of dollars to “fix” your problem.
Tips for Prevention: Keep your computer’s anti-virus and malware detection up-to-date. If you fall victim to these types of pop-ups, try shutting down your computer, wait a minute, restart and all should (hopefully) be back to normal.
Bogus Sweepstakes & Contest: If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because IT USUALLY IS! You may receive a call telling you about your winnings (thousands of dollars, a great trip, etc.) but you have to pay a small “fee” to claim your prize.
Tips for Prevention: Credible contests do not require a “fee” to be paid by the winner. Never agree to pay anything over the phone to claim your winnings. If you are unsure, try a quick internet search for the contest name and add the words “scam.” Odds are you’ll see some news about it online from other victims, you will typically not be the first or, unfortunately, the last.
Phishing Emails: Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers. These usually come in the form of a text or email that looks legitimate. It may even appear to come from your bank, credit union or a government agency. These direct you to a website link that may appear genuine at first glance, but was created by a criminal to steal your financial information.
Tips for Prevention: Read the email or text closely — check for spelling or grammatical errors. Do they use the English language naturally or as someone who may be using a translator? Also, check the email address or phone number from which the message was sent. If the website has an odd URL or website address then AVOID THAT LINK!
Medicare ID Card Replacement Scam: According to AARP, more than three-quarters of Americans over age 65 know little or nothing about the federal government’s initiative to replace their Medicare cards. Criminals are taking advantage of the lack of knowledge surrounding the roll-out and are posing as Medicare representatives to collect a “fee” for your new card and ask you to “verify” your Social Security number. Trust us, Medicare already knows your personal information and there is no fee for the new card.
Tips for Prevention: Sign up for an email alert at www.medicare.gov/newcard. You will get a message alerting you when your new card is in the mail and headed your way.
The Grandparent Ploy: Although the media has been reporting on this scam for over five years now, some well-intentioned people still fall victim to these criminals, who prey on a grandparent’s protective instincts. There is nothing more frightening than receiving a frantic phone call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to be your grandchild. He or she will say they are in an emergency situation — a car accident, an arrest, or even a kidnapping. The criminal will eventually ask for money in the form of a wire transfer or gift card to help them. They may even ask that you not tell anyone else for fear of embarrassment.
Tips for Prevention: Review your social media settings. Can anyone from anywhere see your photos and family members revealing all they would need to know to have a successful con? Make sure your details are set to private. If you get a call from someone, take a moment to pause and call your grandchild or other family members to find out if your loved one really is in danger before giving away any financial information over the phone.
Account Take-Over: A criminal just needs a few stolen pieces to successfully get into your online bank accounts or e-commerce sites. Once they are in your accounts, they can drain the funds and have a wild shopping spree on your hard earned dollar.
Tips for Prevention: Most online accounts provide security measures. These may include passwords that can not use your last name or birthdate, or may require the combined use of letters, numbers and certain special characters. Use these requirements to make your password strong. Another way to help keep from falling victim to fraud is to set account reminders to notify you of transactions on your accounts. Stay connected and informed on your accounts. If you don’t, someone else will.