Each week the Office of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging releases a Friday newsletter with information relevant to activities, issues and events for older Pennsylvanians and persons with disabilities across the Commonwealth.
The Federal Trade Commission knows it!
AARP and others know it.
This it the time of year that brings out the scammers.
A 2015 AARP article stated: “More than two-thirds (70%) of American holiday shoppers who donated to a charity or fundraiser in the past 12 months did so without asking what percentage of their donation went to the fundraiser versus to the charity itself.”
So, be careful! Be vigilant! and …
Please Report Scams
If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Report scams online or call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a complaint, you can help the FTC’s investigators identify bad business practices and scam artists, and stop a friend from over-paying. It really makes a difference.
“Pins making unsubstantiated claims — like that cinnamon cures arthritis and alkaline water kills cancer — have been pinned thousands of times.”
“Pinterest is where many people turn for ideas about how to be healthy. But the recipes, nutrition advice, and other colorful infographics that the site is so well-known for are rife with bad information about health and science.
“This kind of misinformation is baseless and ineffective at best, and harmful at worst — some pins, for example, make unsubstantiated claims about preventing and treating cancer — but Pinterest says that it is only a minor problem for the site.
“With little effort over the past month, BuzzFeed News found more than a dozen misleading health-related pins that were being shared widely.
“One pin, saved to about 13,000 boards, falsely claimed: ‘Even Doctors Can Not Explain This: Boiled Cinnamon And Honey Is The Cure For Many Health Problems,’ from cancer to arthritis to gallbladder infections. Another pin with a bogus claim — ‘Retired Pharmacy Chief Said: “The World Needs To Know, Alkaline Water Kills Cancer”‘ — was saved to more than 16,500 boards.”
Read this BuzzFeedNews article in its entirety, click here.
Update September 13: After a “conversation” with New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Equifax has revised its terms of service; signing up for the company’s free year of protection does not preclude you from taking any type of legal action, and credit card information will not be required as part of the sign-up process. USA Today reports that currently, at least 23 class action suits have been filed. These and others will likely be consolidated in a single lawsuit.
“On September 7, the credit reporting company Equifax—one of three in the US—announced that the personal data of 143 million American consumers, possibly as well as some in Canada and the UK, has been compromised.
“From late spring though the end of July, hackers gained access to Equifax’s data and were able to steal not just names and addresses, but also Social Security numbers, birth dates and even some driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for more than 200,000 people were stolen. And in some cases, secret questions and answers used to verify identity were compromised, too.
“It took the company six weeks to disclose the breach, during which time your data could already have been used to open credit card accounts or tap into existing ones.”
Keep reading this article at Senior Planet; click here.
“This week, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has heard from a number of people who have received emails falsely claiming they are from the Administration on Agting (AoA) and Edwin Walker requesting personal and financial information. These emails are a Phishing scam.
· ACL will never ask for your social security number.
· We will not ask you to send us a check in order to access a benefit.
· You can always contact us at (202) 401-4634 to check to see if a message is valid.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, bank and other financial account, and credit card details (and, directly or indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication including email and text messages. For anyone, but particularly for older and vulnerable adults, phishing can be an opening to fraud and financial abuse.
How Do I Spot a Phishing Email?
Phishers include links in their email to lure you to fake sites that look like the legitimate ones to steal your login credentials or they could use the links to infect your computer with a virus. Phishers may also ask for you to respond to an email with sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII) that would allow them access to bank or other financial accounts. Before you click a link or respond to an email, you should ask:
Do you recognize the sender’s company or email address? Is the sender’s email address familiar? Are you expecting something from the sender’s company or organization?
Are you named in the salutation? This may not always prove that the email is legitimate due to the fact that your name may be in your email address, but it’s good to check.
You should always be suspicious of links in an email. Always hover over links to verify the source URL code. A URL is the address of a specific website or file on the Internet. Before you click, verify that you recognize the linked URL.
Do you know the sender? The sender should include a signature that provides contact information.
What to do if you think you have received a phishing email?
You have two choices: Delete the mail, or
Forward the email to an organization that can either study the email for evidence of who sent it, or can investigate the people responsible for sending it. Examples include an IT security group that supports you, or a law enforcement organization that deals with cybersecurity.
You also can report complaints to these agencies:
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internet Crime Compliant Center:
The Federal Trade Commission:
U.S. Postal Service:
Gary Waters/Getty Images/Ikon Images
“The Internal Revenue Service says it’s seeing a surge in phone scams. More than 5,000 victims have been duped out of $26.5 million since late 2013. It’s hard to know what exactly con artists are thinking when they target their victims. But now, we know what they are saying.
“Before we get started, keep this in mind: The IRS says it doesn’t call about outstanding taxes without first mailing you a bill.
“Pindrop Security, an Atlanta-based company that investigates phone fraud, recently gave NPR a recording. It’s a grueling conversation, more than an hour long, between an active fraud ring and a presumed victim, who is in reality a Pindrop researcher.”
This article contains “five key parts of the recorded conversation between the fraudsters, posing as IRS agents, and the target, who is secretly a Pindrop researcher.”
Click here to continue reading this NPR article in its entirety and to listen to the recordings.
“Nearly one in 20 older adults can expect to be financially exploited beyond age 60, an incidence rate that is higher than many age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and arthritis.”
“Older adults who have fallen for scams by friends, relatives, or strangers behave just as their peers who have avoided rip-offs do. They are able to balance their checkbooks. They can remember and evaluate information. Their personalities are normal, and their arithmetic is fine.
“But their brains are different.
“For the first time, researchers have found a biological basis for financial exploitation in the elderly.”
“Data breaches resulting in the compromise of personally identifiable information of thousands of Americans. Intrusions into financial, corporate, and government networks. Complex financial schemes committed by sophisticated cyber criminals against businesses and the public in general.” Click here to continue reading.
The Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources | Berks-Lancaster-Lebanon partners’ network remind you to be especially vigilant to telephone, mail or internet scams.
Do not send money to people you do not know. Do not engage in conversations, exchange emails asking you to send money to people from other countries.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the third highest percentage of elderly residents in the United States with nearly 2 million residents over the age of 65. Scam artist of all types take advantage of this and target this generation. There’s more at the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.
by Mark Berg
It begins with a phone call. A young voice on the other end of the line says, “Grandma (or grandpa), this is (name of your grandchild). My voice sounds different because I’ve been crying. I’m in trouble and I don’t want to call my parents. They’d be furious. I’ve been in a car accident (or stuck in jail, or detained in a foreign country), and I need money right now.”
Turns out, it’s a scam; it’s not your grandchild calling, and she/he is not in trouble. This is just one of many scams being perpetrated on seniors.
A recent report, Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors, summarizes the Committee’s investigation into this and other scams. Between January 1 and December 31, 2015, the Committee’s Fraud Hotline received 1,108 complaints from residents in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The top ten scams described in the report accounted for more than 90 percent of the complaints.
About a third of the complaints were about the IRS Impersonation Scam, which the IRS called “the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS.” Nearly 900,000
Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials, with 30 to 50 people a week reporting that they lost money to the scam; more than 5,000 Americans have lost a total of at least $26 million.
In second place is the Sweepstakes Scams. Callers tell potential victims that they have won or have been entered to win a prize, but it requires the victims to pay a fee to either collect their supposed winnings or improve their chances of winning the prize. At its peak, law enforcement officials estimated that one sophisticated con operation alone made approximately 30,000 phone calls to the United States per day and stole $300 million per year from tens of thousands of seniors.
The third category of complaints is Robocalls and Unwanted Phone Calls. Twelve years after the national Do-Not-Call registry was implemented, we are still being disturbed by telemarketers and scammers. They use Robodialers to distribute pre-recorded messages or to connect the person who answers the call with a live person who poses as a representative of a bank, credit card company, creditor, or government agency to convince the victim to reveal account numbers, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, passwords, and other identifying information.
Fourth is the Computer Scam. Con artists convince victims to give them remote access to their computers, personal information, and credit card and bank account numbers so that victims can be “billed” for fraudulent services to fix a virus or poor computer performance. In a related scam, victims see a pop-up window on their computer instructing them to contact a tech-support agent. Microsoft – which receives complaints of computer-based fraud – estimated that 3.3 million Americans are victims of technical support scams annually, losing $1.5 billion per year. Unlike other victim-assisted frauds, in which scammers are successful in just one out of a hundred-plus attempts, it appears that computer-based scams have a very high success rate.
Identity theft, the grandparent scam above, elder financial abuse, the government grant scam, a romance scam, the home improvement scam round out the list.
The Senate Committee has a free fraud hotline: 855-503-9470 to help increase reporting and awareness of consumer fraud.
Mark Berg is a member of the Pennsylvania Council on Aging, and Chairman of the Adams County Office for Aging’s Citizens Advisory Council. His email address is MABerg175@comcast.net.