BE AWARE OF THESE SCAMS…
Financial fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in America today. Most financial crimes involving identity theft begin with the collection of personal information from victims. New methods of obtaining information regularly pop-up but there are several of these “scams” that have stayed prominent. Below is a list and brief description of several scams prevalent today. Be aware of them as knowledge is the key to avoiding victimization.
Beware of the Medicare Back and Knee Brace Scam - Tom's Senior Corner May 2021
How the Scam Works
You get a call saying you qualify for a back brace or a knee brace – totally paid for by Medicare. The scammer may pretend to be from Medicare, or they may claim to be the maker of Durable Medical Equipment (DME). They say you qualify for the equipment for free, and they repeatedly call until you relent and allow them to submit an order to your doctor for the equipment. Or you may say no, but the company ships the brace anyway. Other times the equipment just shows up on your doorstep and Medicare receives the bill. Often consumers have a difficult time returning the unnecessary equipment.
By law, no one is allowed to make unsolicited calls to consumers about durable medical equipment. If they do, it’s Medicare fraud. And taxpayers’ foot the bill for all the unwanted products. If you get such a call, just hang up.
Other Examples of DME Fraud?
- Suppliers who want you to use their doctors (who then prescribe unnecessary medical equipment)
- Doctors or suppliers who charge Medicare for items you never received
- Companies that bill for duplicate orders
Medicare fraud has cost the American public more than $60 billion, and durable medical equipment fraud is a significant contributor to that total. In April 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 24 people across the country for DME fraud involving more than $1.2 billion in losses.
And here’s one more reason to care about durable medical equipment fraud: if you receive an unnecessary piece of equipment but don’t report it, you may be stuck later. When the time comes that you actually need such a device, Medicare may not pay the bill for it, saying they had covered it years earlier.
How to Protect Yourself and Medicare from DME Fraud
- Refuse and then report anyone offering “free” equipment, supplies, or services in exchange for your Medicare number.
- Know that Medicare medical suppliers are not allowed to make unsolicited telephone calls or send e mails to sell you equipment unless you’ve done business with them in the last 15 months. Never sign a blank form from your health care provider or equipment supplier
- Always read your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation Of Benefits (EOB) to look for any charges for equipment you do not need or did not receive.
- Protect your Medicare and Social Security cards; keep them in a safe place (not your wallet), and only get them out when you are going to see a health care provider
If you get one of these calls, immediately hang up and report the call to:
- Call the Medicare fraud hotline: (800) 633-4227 (800-MEDICARE)
- Report the fraud to the FBI: (800) 225-5324 (800-CALL-FBI)
COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
As the country begins to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, there’s no doubt scammers are already scheming.
Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine, so there will be no cost to you. If anyone asks you to share your Medicare Number or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it’s a scam.
Here’s what to know:
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
- You can’t pay to get early access to a vaccine.
- Don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee.
Jackson County Sherriff’s Office Scam Warnings
We are seeing an increase of fraud attempts again and frequently they are against seniors.
Many of these cases are where a suspect, most likely an overseas suspect, claims to be Border Patrol, Customs, DEA, the IRS or Social Security. They claim there has been a package or vehicle located with ties to the victim and they need a payment to proceed with some sort of action either for or against the victim. Why they need payment seems to be case-specific based on the conversation with the victims.
The victim ends up buying Google Play Cards to make the payment. These are common right now although other gift cards are used. Then the victim provides payment info over the phone or to overseas emails.
With tax season approaching, and with stimulus checks just being sent out, this is a reminder to not engage with phone calls claiming to be the government. Just hang up. Government agencies will send correspondence to you over any monetary issue. Legitimate claims will not ask for payment with some sort of gift card either.
If you know persons who may be vulnerable and not familiar with scams such as these, take a moment to check-in with that friend or loved one. Let them know about how things like this work. Encourage them to contact law enforcement if they are harassed by scammers.
There are so many scams out there it is hard to avoid them. Your best defense on phone-related scams is to just hang up.
Information provided by Deborah Cox-Roush, Director of AmeriCorps Seniors 12/7/2020
The holiday season ramps up the grinches who target seniors because they know that seniors are more charitable and more vulnerable so it’s the perfect time to take advantage of their generosity. While it’s encouraged to help those less fortunate and/or legitimate charitable causes, we also want seniors to be cautious, especially when it comes to some of the more popular holiday scams like the ones listed below:
- Charity Cheaters – You receive a call from someone who poses as a representative from a charity that may be a made up cause. Before giving, check to ensure that the charity is indeed, legitimate. You can find a list of reputable charities at www.charitywatch.org or by visiting the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at give.org.
- Fraudulent gift cards – Many seniors find that gift cards are a great gift for adult grandchildren or those on their own. Be care where you purchase your cards because fraudsters are known to tamper with gift cards displayed in grocery stores. A better bet is to purchase your gift card directly from the retailer at their register or on their website.
- Gift card scams – Victims are contacted by the scammer and then prompted to purchase gift cards and send the numbers to the scammer. The scammer promises to pay them back, but never does.
- Online shopping scams – We all love a good bargain but scammers use fantastic discount deals to lure you into downloading a fake app that may look like a familiar retailer. Before downloading, check to see if the retailer’s name is spelled correctly and/or if there are any reviews posted about the retailer. If there are typos and no reviews, it’s probably a fraud.
- Online Secret Shopper – You’re invited by email to shop online and may even be offered payment. However, to get started you must provide your financial information. Avoid these offers as online secret shoppers are rarely recruited through email or social media.
- Problem with your purchase: You receive an email that you believe has come from a business you’ve shopped at that indicates there is an issue with your order. They ask you to click a link to provide your information again. A legitimate email about your order would provide you an order reference number and you would be asked to login to your account – not click a link.
- Grandparent Scam – This is one that never seems to go away and holidays are a perfect time for this scam as families are connecting or reconnecting. The scammer pretends to be a grandchild or other relative in trouble and are experiencing some form of medical, legal, or financial difficulty. They need for the grandparent to send money for bail, legal fees or hospital bills. Remember that money is rarely of immediate concern during a medical or legal emergency so you have time to conduct due diligence.
To avoid this scam, tell them you’ll call them right back. Then call your grandchild or relative directly. If they are safe at home, you’ll know it was a scam.
In general, beware of any request to wire money, especially if they’ve created a sense of urgency that is designed to pressure you into taking quick action without thinking. It’s great to be generous during the holidays but scammers are clever so you’ll need to also be careful. Do the following three things to conduct due diligence:
- When online, investigate offers before clicking any links or providing sensitive information.
- Confirm the identity of people who reach out for help and verify any organizations that contact you.
- Just say no if you sense something isn’t quite right.
Remember – Stay vigilant if you really want to enjoy the happiest of holidays.
Watch out for Scams During the Holidays
Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) has received reports of a potential scam targeting SNAP participants. The scam came in the form of a text message, which asks the person to click on a link, telling the customer they will lose their SNAP benefits because they haven’t used them.
Text reads: “You have not availed your Dec Food Stamps. Go here [fraudulent link] before they expire.”
If a customer contacts you about this text, advise them of the scam and tell them to delete the message.
Oregonians should never share their personal information with individuals or organizations that they do not know. Personal information includes their social security number, bank information, SNAP electronic benefits transfer card or PIN number.
Utility Bill Scams
Overpaid Your Utility Bill? That’s Probably A Scam
You may receive a call saying you paid too much on a utility bill. To make up for this mistake, they say, you’ll get a cash refund and a discount on your future bills. All you have to do is press a number to get your money and discount. You might think this is a strange surprise but will help you save some much-needed money.
Not so fast. This is probably just another utility scam — or, at best, a marketing trick — to get your money. In the unlikely event you really did pay more than you owed on your bill, utility companies don’t usually give cash refunds. Instead, they credit the extra money to your account. As for the future discount on your bill, that’s also not likely. At best, this could be a third-party service provider claiming you’ll save money if you switch to their service. But sometimes these services come with catches that could actually have you paying more on your bill — or even two bills at once: your utility company bill and the service provider bill.
If you get one of these calls, here’s what you should do:
- Hang up. Don’t press any numbers or respond to any instructions. If you press or respond, you’ll probably end up getting more unwanted calls like this.
- Never give the caller your Social Security number, account details, or…well, just don’t tell them anything. Scammers can use almost any information you give them to get your money.
- Call your utility company, using the number on your utility bill. Tell them about the call and ask if the call was for real.
If you want to consider using a third-party utility company, check with the utility regulatory agency in your state to understand your rights and how these companies are supposed to work. Also, report any scams you spot to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Frightening Scam Call Warning
On October 23, 2020, several reports were made to JCSO and other local law enforcement agencies regarding a threatening message received via phone. Suspects called area residents from international numbers. The suspects said they had kidnapped their daughter and demanded a ransom. In the background of the calls, a screaming female voice was heard. The recipients of the calls were upset and one thought it was real.
The calls were fake. This is a scam. Do not send money or interact with the suspects. Just hang up on the callers.
You can report to your local law enforcement agency
Nigerian Fraud Scams
This scam, in recent years, has been mass mailed through the internet, however, it has appeared in letters, faxes and phone calls. The scammer tells the victim they have a large sum of money they’ve inherited/found/earned legitimately/etc. The money is trapped in their country and may be confiscated by the government or some other agency. You will be offered a large portion of the money, often millions of dollars, if you allow it to be transferred to your accounts to get it out of the country. The scammer will usually ask for your banking information and may ask that you travel out of country to sign paperwork, collect the money etc. The scam may involve legitimate or official looking paperwork from banks and government officials.
This scam comes in many forms but the basics are the same. A stranger is offering you millions of dollars to help them get their money out of the country. You must provide personal account information and often “processing” fees. There is no money. The scam is an attempt to obtain your banking information in order to empty your bank accounts or worse. Those who have been enticed to travel out of the country by this scam face much worse dangers. The US is currently investigating over 50 missing American Citizens involved in the Nigerian scam. Never provide your private information to a stranger. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Another popular scamming scheme involves “spoofing” websites and e-mails. A victim will receive an e-mail from E-bay, a bank, credit card, etc. The e-mail will explain that the person’s account has become inactive or that they need to update their records. There is a link in the e-mail which guides the person to an official looking web-page from the company. The web-page asks for account information often including the account number, PIN, address and other personal information.
These scams have been very successful because the e-mails and subsequent web-pages they lead to look official. Remember, anyone can send an e-mail or post a web-page and official looking logos and pictures can be obtained very easily. Never provide your account information in response to any e-mail or on any website linked to an e-mail. Most companies, including E-bay do not send out e-mail requiring account updates. If you believe the e-mail to be legitimate, simply make sure by contacting the business by phone instead of following the link.
FRAUD PREVENTION CHECKLIST
- Buy a cross-cut type shredder and shred all of your important documents before you throw them away. Remember to include pre-approved credit card applications sent to you in the mail, credit card receipts and other financial/personal information.
- Get your checks delivered to your bank where you pick them up, instead of having them sent to your home where they may be stolen out of your mailbox.
- Do not put outgoing checks/bills in your mailbox at home where they may be stolen. Always drop these off at US Postal mailboxes or the Post Office.
- Cancel all credit cards that you do not use or have not used in the last six months.
- Put passwords other than your mother’s maiden name on all of your accounts.
- Keep track of your bills and statements. Make sure you receive them each month. If a bill or statement does not arrive, contact the merchant immediately to verify it was sent and when. Make sure no activity has occurred on the account.
- If possible obtain a locking mailbox. A post office box is even safer.
- Ask all financial institutions, doctor’s offices, etc, what they do with your information when they are through with it. Make sure it is shredded and not simply thrown away.
- Never give any personal information to a caller no matter how they identify themselves. If they claim to be a credit grantor, take their name and contact information, then call them back at the number you know to be true. Remember, credit card company’s will not ask for your PIN or secret code, they already have that information.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus twice a year. Make sure all of the information is accurate and up to date.
- Do not leave important information, including purses/wallets/briefcases in your vehicle. Cars are easily broken into.