How Can You Protect Yourself from Consumer Scams?

How Can You Protect Yourself from Consumer Scams?Every year, thousands of older Americans are victims of consumer scams. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that older Americans lose billions of dollars each year to scammers. Identifying common scams and what to do is important to protect the elderly from fraud.

NCOA reports there are Social Security scams which in the past, started with a telephone call allegedly from the Social Security Administration. Similar to other scams involving the IRS where the caller informs the individual he or she is about to be arrested for not paying taxes, the social security scam claimed the person receiving the call would be arrested unless action was taken because the individual’s social security number had been suspended and needed to be reactivated.  What is important to remember is that the Social Security Administration never threatens legal action or arrest in a phone call. Someone who receives such a call should not provide any information at all.

Much of the information on scams targeting the elderly comes from The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  In a report by the FTC, “Protecting Older Americans: 2017-2018 it describes how the FTC provides case information to Congress of the elderly who have been targeted by scammers. One example identified by the FTC was the “phony grant” scheme where a telemarketing company specifically targeted older Americans promising $10,000 or more in grant money if those targeted paid for the company’s service. Alarmingly, the fees they charged ranged from $200 to approximately $5,000. This particular scam resulted in elderly and disabled individuals losing more than $3 million. This is an example of a scam that appears to be too good to be true and resulted in the loss of assets for those who were uninformed.

Another example is the “Sweepstakes” scam where elderly individuals received a notification in the mail that they won a prize and would receive it as soon as the person paid a fee. The fee ranged from $9.00 to $139.00, and the scammers, in this case, ended up with millions.

In addition, older Americans continue to be targets of tech support scams where a company contacts someone and offers to clear out viruses and malware from the person’s computer. Unfortunately, in these cases, the computers do not have viruses, and those who pay for the services rarely have the money returned to them.

For older Americans, being aware of potential scams is the first step toward protecting themselves. No government agency will call to threaten to arrest an individual. If an older individual feels he or she was a victim of a scam, contacting the FTC to report it to the Pass It On campaign, will help others who may be potential victims of scams in the future. Consumer Reports also recommends contacting the AARP Fraud Watch Network to report scams. Both share information with the public and can be a resource for those wondering if they are about to be scammed.

At Bratton Law, we care about our senior clients and work tirelessly to protect their interests. To speak with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today, give us a call at 856-857-6007.