Protecting Yourself From Scams During COVID-19
June is Elder Abuse Awareness month, which works to not only to educate people on the topic of elder abuse, but to also increase reporting numbers and start discussions on how to recognize and prevent this abuse. What you may not know is that there are various forms of elder abuse aside from the physical abuse which first comes to mind. Financial exploitation, neglect by a caregiver or self-neglect by an older adult, and verbal/emotional abuse are all other forms of abuse. Financial exploitation has taken the forefront as of late, as unfortunately, times of crisis tend to be when people are at their most vulnerable and scammers take advantage of this.
In times where things can be a bit uncertain, it is more important than ever to protect yourself from financial scams. Unfortunately, scams and fraud are common, it is reported by the Senate Special Committee on Aging that seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion each year due to financial exploitation. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seniors are especially susceptible to fraud as they often have a “nest egg”, own their home, and have strong credit, making them attractive to con artists. There are plenty of scams targeted specifically to older adults, such as the “grandparent scam”, where the caller pretends to be a grandchild that is having an emergency and needs funds from the grandparent. Or a Medicaid/Medicare scam where the caller claims a medical test or product is free, they take down the person’s insurance information and then bill to insurance for payment even though service was never administered.
Several scams have come to light with the coronavirus crisis. The recent federal stimulus payments have led to scammers calling or texting pretending to be from the government with a person’s stimulus check, looking to get their information such as social security, bank account, or credit card. Other such imposter scams have cropped up where scammers pose as local health officials offering coronavirus testing and treatment, again wanting to gain personal information.
With scammers constantly trying new methods to get private information from you, there are a few common trends to be aware of so that you can stay diligent:
- Recognize that phone calls are a common way for scammers to contact you. Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you are the one who has initiated the call.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remain skeptical of all unsolicited offers and be an informed consumer,
- Never send money to a person or organization you do not know. Most government agencies and businesses will send you a bill via the mail. If you receive an electronic request via email, call the company directly to confirm it is from them.
- Practice online safety: Check your links and attachments to ensure they are from trusted sources, oftentimes “https” can be a good indicator that a link is secure.
Older adults are also less likely to report a scam because they do not know who or where to report it to. Below are a few reliable places to start and stay educated on common scams.
- FBI- report cyber-crime to Internet Crime Complaint Center www.ic3.gov
- Federal Trade Commission: www.FTC.gov for scam updates and to report a scam
- Attorney General: www.Michigan.gov for scam updates and report a scam
- Cyber-crime Support Network: call 2-1-1 for assistance in reporting a scam
- Report COVID fraud to National Center for Disease Fraud Hotline 866-720-5721
Additionally, www.protectkentseniors.org specializes in compiling up-to-date information on scams. The Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition is a large group of agencies representing non-profit, profit, and government organizations including the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, Kent County Prosecutor's Office, state and local law enforcement, Kent County Probate Court, Adult Protective Services, local long-term care ombudsman, Kent County Health Department, Life EMS, social service agencies, local hospitals, financial institutions, and elder law attorneys. We are dedicated to the elimination of elder abuse in Kent County, Michigan, and surrounding areas.
The Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition meets monthly to discuss current older adult and vulnerable adult cases in Kent County. They also provide community trainings on elder abuse, scams, and financial exploitation. Please call or email with inquiries, (616) 456-5664 or firstname.lastname@example.org