Fraudsters and scammers add new schemes to take our money. Just yesterday, I had a phone call congratulating me on a $10,000 prize; all I had to do was give the caller my debit or credit card number, and the winnings would magically appear in my account. “Oh, really,” I ask, “How does that work?” In fear of losing valuable passwords and account codes, I ended the call abruptly. Yes, that sounds a bit paranoid, but with all the schemes today, I didn’t want to risk having my brain scanned, stealing valuable passcodes, etc. Yes I know that’s impossible, but one never knows with technology.
Maybe I’m paranoid because last month another scammer held my computer hostage, disabling the functionality. A phone number appeared on the screen saying it was Microsoft tech department with an 800 number to dial for help. Well, silly me, I called, knowing it was a scam, but I found the trick interesting. The technician wanted access to my computer so he could solve the problem. Ha! That was sly and must say had I not been aware of such trickery; I might have fallen for it. So, I shut off my computer instead.
These are the reasons for my paranoia and why I read so much about scams. It’s critical for you to stay aware as well. Too many seniors suffer from such abuse. Here are the latest ones listed by AARP.
Phone Cheats – The scammers let the fingers do the stalking, like the one who called me. They claim to be tech-support workers who hunt viruses (yes, the one that attacked my computer), and utility bill collectors. Plus, many variations of winning a trip or the lottery. A new attempt tries to get you to make an unauthorized bank withdrawals or get loan.
IRS Scams – Phone calls from the legit IRS are scary enough, but as I understand, the IRS would never call a citizen on the phone. But crooks netted about $47 million in three years. In 2017, the scam has a new twist: target will be individuals with college loans. The crooks will threaten arrest or penalties unless the person pays a nonexistent student tax payment.
The tax scammers will also hack tax professionals computer files using bogus software updates.
Scare Tactics – AARP reminds us to avoid strong emotions if you should encounter a scam saying that fear shuts down the brain’s logic centers and makes you more likely to react impulsively. So, it’s my advice to accept that you might encounter such fraud activity but remember threats of arrest, lawsuits, financial ruin, physical harm (yes, Hitman hoax exists), and even a computer failing to function are scams. Don’t engage or fall for them.
Antifraud groups raise public awareness and remind us if there’s a request for payment by wire transfer and prepaid cash card — that signals a scam, and the Federal Trade Commission has made it illegal for telemarketers to ask for payment that way.
Carol Marak, aging advocate, is editor at Seniorcare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.