As if things weren’t bad enough with a global Coronavirus pandemic, now come reports that con artists are using the disaster to steal money and gain access to personal information. They do so by preying on fears with false health claims, stimulus check scams, robocalls, and phishing using well-honed tactics to separate the elderly from their money.
Fortunately, the FTC and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) are fighting back with an informational campaign designed to educate seniors and their caregivers about how to spot and avoid Coronavirus scams.
Remember, awareness is the first and most crucial step in avoiding scams. The prudent thing to do is always to follow the general rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Fraudsters now routinely call seniors with promises of COVID-19 cures, COVID-19 vaccines, COVID-19 test kits, and even COVID-19 charms and amulets. Then there are the scammers who claim to work for the federal government who purport to help seniors deposit their federal stimulus checks. If the swindlers can’t get a senior on the phone, they’ll also try to reach them online with phishing e-mail containing malicious links that help hackers gain access to private financial information.
During this period of heightened isolation and fear, it is easier than ever for con artists to gain access. If the family isn’t carefully monitoring vulnerable seniors, such people are much more likely to engage in conversation with a friendly voice on the other end of the phone who purports to want to be their friend and help them. That nice man on the other end of the line who suggests going to https://usafederalgrantclaim.wixsite.com to claim a U.S. Treasury payment turns out not to be from the U.S. government and isn’t going to be giving anyone money.
The Senior Medicare Patrol put out the following general warnings: always be wary of unsolicited phone calls with offers of test kits, vaccines, prescriptions, supplies, masks, or even hand sanitizer. Never give a Medicare card number to anyone over the phone. Medicare will never call to ask for the number. Beware of companies offering supplemental Medicare insurance coverage. Insurance companies who do not already have a relationship with a beneficiary are not permitted to initiate a sales call, so if you receive one, it’s definitely a scam.
If you believe a loved one is being victimized by a scam or fraud, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 and report the abuse to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Hotline is a first step to assisting adults ages 60 and up to report suspected elder fraud and will refer victims to appropriate agencies and resources.