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.
“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.
“When your call’s no emergency, use 211; it’s free and it’s local” – LNP – Always Lancaster Editorial
“There is a number to receive non-emergency help: It’s 2-1-1 and the local referral service is confidential, free and based right here in Lancaster County. Pennsylvania 2-1-1 East, run by the United Way of Lancaster County, serves Lancaster, Berks and five other counties.”
This editorial in the July 22, 2015 LNP – Always Lancaster newspaper points to 2-1-1 as the go-to place to get help for for services that are not immediately life threatening.
Harrisburg, PA – As we approach the April 15 Federal Tax Return deadline, the Department of Aging is warning the public of scams that have been targeting taxpayers, including scams that specifically target the elderly.
In recent weeks, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been on alert for scams that target the elderly and have issued warnings to seniors. Many seniors are not required to submit tax information because they earn little income. Yet, con artists take advantage of the situation. According to the IRS, some callers tell their elderly victims that they are going to receive a big refund. The call may threaten driver’s license revocation or even arrest for tax evasion. In some instances, the caller’s goal is to get use of credit card and other ID information, and in some instances follow-up calls are made from so called “associates” who say they are from law enforcement or the state driver’s license bureau.
Be informed, the IRS will not:
- Call you to demand immediate payment of taxes owed without first sending you a prior official written notice;
- Ask you for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
- Pressure you by threatening to involve local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.
“Governor Wolf and the Department of Aging are committed to protecting seniors against fraud,” said Acting Secretary of Aging, Teresa Osborne. “If you suspect that you or someone you know is the target or victim of a scam, you should not hesitate to talk about it with someone you trust. Giving the callers the information they demand can be catastrophic, which is why we urge you to reach out immediately.”
Incidents can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484; the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Unit at 1-866-623-213; or the Pennsylvania Elder Abuse hotline at 1-866-490-2137.
A Primary Attraction: Your Retirement Assets
“For too many older adults and their families, the idea of falling victim to financial fraud seems improbable. Such swindles, or so they believe, are something that happens to the other guy.
“Unfortunately, the 50-plus demographic has long been vulnerable to scams. Today, they make even more attractive targets because of their often sizable retirement savings.
“As is often the case, the best way to help a family member avoid becoming a victim is to have a conversation—before it’s too late—about the risks and warning signs of fraud. For older adults less capable of making decisions, the potential losses require heightened vigilance by loved ones.
“These days, Medicare and health-insurance scams have become a rich area for con artists to mine. Old-fashioned drains on bank accounts, like “free” contests and magazine subscriptions that really cost money, persist. Email and the Internet have added new dimensions to scams that were once perpetrated over the phone. Identity theft is spreading, and the holiday season is prime time for charity-linked email ‘phishing’ scams.”