Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Aging is warning Pennsylvania seniors, their families, and caregivers about a new scam targeting older adults. DNA testing has become extremely popular in the past few years for people looking to learn more about their family history and health, and scammers are now targeting Medicare beneficiaries with a fraudulent DNA testing service. These scammers offer “free” genetic testing, claiming it is covered through Medicare, as a means for the senior to avoid disease or to find the right medications. This is simply an effort to gain access to a senior’s personal Medicare information, which can lead to access to financial information and more.
“Unfortunately, scammers continue to develop ways to target seniors,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “It’s a major priority to circulate new scam tactics to the public as we discover them to help older adults and their loved ones be one step ahead of potentially being a victim of these criminals.”
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) suggests the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- Do not accept genetic testing services, including a cheek swab, from someone at a community event, a local fair, a farmer’s market, a parking lot, or any other large event.
- Always be cautious about giving out your personal information, including your Medicare number.
- If you receive a genetic testing kit in the mail, don’t accept it unless it was ordered by your physician. Refuse the delivery or return it to the sender and keep a record of the sender’s name and the date you returned the items.
- Always review your Medicare Summary Notice or Explanation of Benefits. The words “gene analysis” or “molecular pathology” may indicate questionable genetic testing.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in 10 older adults is a victim of elder abuse, and according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, for every case of elder abuse reported, five go unreported. This reporting rate is even more troubling in financial abuse cases, which estimates that only one in 14 cases is reported.
If you or a loved one have already received a genetic testing cheek swab or screening that was not ordered by a trusted provider, or have any concerns about possible fraud, find and contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) here or call 1-877-808-2468.
Anyone can report elder abuse by calling the 24-hour statewide elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging. Pennsylvania law protects those who report suspected abuse from retaliation and civil or criminal liability; all calls are free and confidential.
For information about aging topics click here or on the above graphic.
The screen shot reflects some of the calls we received on the Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources mobile phone yesterday afternoon. Note that the 800.804.8167 and the 210.405.6186 callers are repetitive ones. Both the numbers are scam callers purporting to be from “Social Security.”
In both cases, we let the calls go to voice mail, here’s what the messages sound like.
Remember, if you “you get a call from an unknown number. You answer only to find yourself on the receiving end of a threatening message saying your Social Security benefits will stop immediately unless you provide your personal information. It happens every day to thousands of Americans. And it’s not Social Security calling.”
The Federal Trade Commission reminds everyone, “This is what a Social Security scam sounds like.”
“The United States of Elder Fraud – How Prevalent is Elder Financial Abuse in Each State?” – comparitech
by Paul Bischoff
“The vast majority of elder fraud cases in the US go unreported. Our research team set out to uncover the true cost of elder fraud in the US by analyzing and extrapolating data from government reports and registries.
“Comparitech estimates 5 million cases of elder fraud occur in the US annually resulting in $27.4 billion in losses.
“Elder fraud, also called elder financial abuse or elder financial exploitation, is defined as the misappropriation or abuse of financial control in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, resulting in harm to the elderly victim.
“More than 200,000 scams and financial abuse cases targeting the elderly are reported to authorities every year, and most experts agree that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our estimates show $1.17 billion in damages are reported to authorities, but the real figure likely dwarfs that amount when factoring in unreported elder fraud.
“To calculate the full scope of the problem, Comparitech aggregated data from multiple studies on elder fraud in every US state, including the number of reports to authorities and average loss per case. We then used those numbers to estimate the total number of cases and total damages in each state, adjusted for the proportion of unreported cases.”
“If you can get a saliva swab and a Medicare number from an unsuspecting senior and falsify a doctor’s order, there’s an easy four-figure sum to be had.”
by Bob Thomas
“When technology or insurance coverage determinations evolve, so do the opportunities for mischief. That’s what my colleagues and I have been seeing in the genetic testing space.
“Genetic testing, whether it’s for ancestral research or assessing disease risk, is an extraordinary tool made possible by advances in science, computing capacity, and the sequencing of the human genome. What was inconceivable 25 years ago can now be accomplished with a saliva sample, some mostly automated laboratory tools, focused computing power, and specialized expertise in the identification of the genetic mutations. The cost of genetic testing for disease assessment can be as high as $10,000.
“With that kind of money in play, opportunists see an opening.”
Read this article in its entirety here; find out about the possibilities for fraud.
“Judy, 79, is a New Jersey woman who was defrauded out of nearly $200,000.”
by David Brancaccio
“Judy is 79 but reads as 15 years younger. She hops the high step into her mid-sized SUV, hits the button for public radio (not just for my sake) and expertly pilots through the streets of her seaside town.
“The plan is to visit one of the scenes of the crime, the gift card rack at a local Walmart.
“Department store gift cards are a favorite money transfer device of fraudsters. Over a two-week period, just after Thanksgiving 2017, Judy got caught in an elaborate scam that cost her close to $200,000. That is a fortune to most of us, and it was a fortune for Judy.
“Judy is a registered nurse, skilled in the operating room. Well into what most would consider their retirement years, she still does fill-in nursing work. She goes to exercise classes a few times a week.”
“‘I look back and I can’t imagine what I was thinking,’ Judy said.”
Have you gotten calls about supposed problems with your Social Security number from callers pretending they’re with the Social Security Administration (SSA)? If so, you’re not alone. Our latest Data Spotlight finds that reports about SSA imposters are surging, while reports about IRS imposters have taken a dive.
As the Spotlight puts it, “In the shady world of government imposters, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.” While reports of SSA imposters have swelled – nearly half of the reports we’ve gotten in the last year have come in the past two months alone – reports of IRS scammers have plunged. What’s more, people told us they lost $19 million to SSA imposters in the past year. That overtakes the $17 million reported lost to IRS imposters in 2016, the peak year of the IRS scam.
How can you spot SSA imposters? They often use robocalls to reach you, then launch into a story aimed at tricking you into giving them your money, your Social Security number (SSN), or both. They may say your SSN has been suspended and you need to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Or, they may say your SSN has been involved in a crime and your bank account is about to be seized or frozen, but you can protect your money if you put it on a gift card and give them the code. Never do that – your money will disappear.
If you get one of these calls, remember – the real SSA will nevercontact you out of the blue or tell you to put money on a gift card or, for that matter, visit a Bitcoin ATM, or wire money. If your caller ID shows a number that looks like it belongs to the SSA, don’t trust the number – scammers fake their caller ID all the time. If you’re worried, hang up and call the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213.
SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission new release
“Older people play an outsized role in civic life. They also are more likely to be online targets for misinformation and hyperpartisan rhetoric.”
by Craig Silverman
“FORT WASHINGTON, Maryland — It’s late morning and roughly 25 senior citizens are learning how to talk to Siri. They pick up their iPads and press the home button, and pings echo around the room as Siri asks what she can do to help.
“‘Siri, what’s the closest coffee shop?’ one woman asks.
“‘Sorry I’m having trouble with the connection, please try again?’ Siri says.
“A handful of employees with AARP, the national nonprofit focused on Americans age 50 and older, hover behind the participants and jump in to help. They’re in Fort Washington, Maryland, to deliver four free workshops about how to use an iPad. Participants learn how to turn it on, what an app is, how to text, and how to flip the camera to take a selfie, among other activities.”
FTC, States Continue Fight against Sham Charities; Shut Down Operations That Falsely Claimed to Help Disabled Police Officers and Veterans
Orders ban defendants from soliciting charitable contributions
The operators of two purported sham charities have agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorneys General of Missouri and Florida that they deceived donors with false claims that their organizations helped disabled police officers and military veterans. The operators of both schemes are permanently banned from charitable solicitations or otherwise working for charities.
The settlements with Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation, Inc. (DPSF), and American Veterans Foundation, Inc. (AVF), highlight the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop sham charities from defrauding donors.
“The FTC and state agencies joined forces to stop illegitimate charities that lie to donors about how their generous contributions will be used,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “You can help—and make sure your donation counts—by checking out a charity before you give. Learn more at ftc.gov/charity.”
Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation, Inc.
DPSF (also doing business as The American Police and Sheriffs Association, and Police Officers Safety Association), and its founder and Executive Director David Kenik, are banned from soliciting charitable contributions under a settlement with the FTC and the state of Missouri, for falsely claiming that consumers’ donations would be used to help police officers and families of slain officers, provide life-saving equipment to law enforcement agencies, and provide advanced, specialized training for law enforcement officers and departments.
DPSF solicitations appealed to consumers’ desire to support the law enforcement officers who protect us all. For example, one solicitation explained that:
“We also provide . . . relief to families of officers killed in the line of duty. … Every day officers bravely go out to protect our streets knowing an officer is killed in the line of duty every other day in our country. They are truly real life heroes.” [emphasis in original];
Consumers responded to the calls for help and donated more than $9.9 million to the ostensible charity. In reality, DPSF spent almost nothing helping the families of officers slain in the line of duty, or assisting disabled police and sheriffs.
The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act, the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and Missouri state law.