A scam is when a person or organization dishonestly attempts to obtain money, personal information, benefits, or something else of value from you. Scam attempts may be made in a number of ways, from email and text to a telephone call or an in-person attempt. Anyone can become a victim of a scam.
A scammer often attempts to win the confidence of the recipient or threaten the recipient. Be mindful that scammers may use social media, dating websites and other sites to quickly befriend you and gain your trust. A scammer may try to impart a sense of urgency or trick you into helping with a fake emergency to get you to act immediately.
The following is an abbreviated list of scams to be aware of:
The Skimming Scam is aimed at obtaining credit, debit, and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card information and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). A scammer targets Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) clients. DTA strongly recommends changing your PINs. If any DTA client believes they may have fallen victim to a skimming or phishing scam, they are encouraged to report it to DTA’s fraud hotline at 1-800-372-8399. Additionally, there have also been reports of a phishing scam where individuals receive scam text messages that their Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits have been blocked. The message directs individuals to call a number where they are asked to provide their P-EBT card number. This message is not from DTA. DTA only sends text messages from 382-674 and would only direct clients to call the Assistance Line (877-382-2363) or EBT Customer Service Line (800-997-2555).
Grandparents Scam / Emergency Scam is when a scammer impersonates your family member or friend in an attempt to obtain money from you for “help” in a bogus emergency. Scam callers may call at any hour posing as a family member or friend who just “got robbed” or “got arrested” and are in need of money to help them get home or for bail. Do not wire or mail money or purchase and mail gift cards. Hang up and call your loved one directly to ensure they are alright or verify it with other family members and friends.
In the Social Security Scam, scammers pose as government employees of the Social Security Administration or other government agency. They contact you via telephone stating there is an issue with your social security account or number and that you owe a fine/debt, then threaten legal action or arrest if you don’t pay. They may even send you an official-looking email. A scammer will ask for payment via pre-paid debit card, gift card, wire transfer or cash.
There are several Healthcare Scams. Be wary of unsolicited texts, emails or calls that ask you for your Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurance information. Con artists posing as government authorities may try to get your personal information for identity theft or for submission of fraudulent medical charges. They may say they need to update your account information or send you a new card. Do not share personally identifiable information such as your birthdate, social security number, Medicare/Medicaid number, health insurance number, banking or other information.
There is even a Contact Tracing Scam. A scammer will pretend to be a contact tracer and call to inform you that you may have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and that you need to isolate and take a COVID test. The scammer then asks for your mailing address so they can send you a test kit, and your credit card number for the $50 fee that is associated with it. If you don’t comply, the scammer may threaten you with a penalty. Only scammers insist on payment (via cash, transfer, credit card, gift card). They may try to get other information such as your social security number, bank account number, or immigration status. Never share any information with anyone who contacts you and asks for it. Do not click on a link in an email or text either as this could download malware to your device. You can report contact tracer scammers at ftc.gov/complaint.
Don’t let your guard down. To avoid phone scams, do not answer unknown numbers. Hang up if you answer a call and it’s a recorded message or Robocall. Never give out or confirm credit card, banking or any personal information (such as your name, address, date of birth, insurance number, social security number, Medicaid number, etc.) to an unsolicited caller.
“Phishing” scams are unsolicited and unexpected communications via email or text message that ask for personal information. Do not share or confirm any of your personal information. Be careful not to click on links, open attachments or download files from unexpected email or text, even if it looks like it is from a person or company you recognize.
Be sure to check your bank accounts frequently for unexpected charges or withdrawals, and your credit reports for unexplained inquiries and accounts.
Knowledge is Key
Scammers use a wide range of tactics and are constantly coming up with new ways to get your personal information, steal your identity and money.
If you suspect you or a loved one have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk to someone. Contact one of the following agencies to report the scam: your local police department; the Attorney General’s Office; the Better Business Bureau Federal Trade Commission; or the U.S. Postal Inspection Services.
Sometimes older adults may have difficulty with tasks such as bill paying, budgeting, and sorting through their mail. Not being able to organize their finances makes them particularly vulnerable to financial loss through a scam as they may not spot fraudulent transactions.
Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) has a Money Management Program (MMP) which provides confidential assistance to older adults (over 60) through well-trained volunteers who can help them sort through their mail, ensure that bills are paid on time, bank statements are reconciled, and financial paperwork is organized. To learn more about this program, please contact OCES at 508-584-1561.