Division of Consumer Affairs Offers Tips for Avoiding Scams, Fraud Aimed at Seniors
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is proud to join the Administration for Community Living in promoting May as Older Americans Month. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Engage at Every Age,” which emphasizes the importance of participating in activities that stimulate physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Older Americans Month has been observed for 55 years and aims to recognize older Americans for their contributions to their communities. The campaign has never been of more importance as older Americans make up a rapidly growing population. As part of Older Americans Month, TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs is sharing the following tips to help Tennessee consumers avoid scam and fraud tactics often aimed at seniors:
Some products are advertised as a free trial offer, but the fine print states that once the trial period is over you must cancel or you will be automatically charged a subscription fee. Often times, consumers don’t realize they’ve agreed to the subscription until they’ve been charged multiple times. To avoid this scam:
Find and read the terms and conditions for an offer. If you can’t find them or can’t understand what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.
Research and check reviews on the company and product being offered before signing up or entering payment.
Check your bank and credit card statements monthly to identify any fraudulent charges.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT SCAMS
Scammers claim to be computer technicians associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. They call or send pop-up messages warning of viruses or other computer problems. Consumers are urged to pay for the technician to gain remote access to the device in order to solve this problem.
To avoid this typically unneeded and harmful scam:
Avoid clicking on any unexpected pop-ups, spam email, or urgent messages about problems with your computer.
Computer manufacturers will not include a contact number in an error or warning message and will not call you if there is a problem with your computer.
If a consumer falls victim to a technical support scam, a follow-up scam regarding a “tech support refund” is likely to occur. They will ask for your bank account or credit card information to issue a refund, but rather than depositing a refund, they take more money or will make fraudulent charges on the account.
NEW MEDICARE CARD SCAMS
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. A new, unique Medicare Number is replacing the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on each new Medicare card. Tennesseans are expected to start receiving the new Medicare cards after June 2018. These new cards will be provided automatically and at no cost to consumers. If you receive a phone call or mail asking you to pay a fee or verify personal or financial information in order to receive the new card, it is a scam.
When you get your new card, be sure to destroy your old card. It likely has your or your spouse’s SSN on it, so don’t toss it in the trash—shred it.
Guard your card. While the new card won’t include your social security number, thieves can still use it to get medical services.
FAMILY EMERGENCY SCAMS
In recent years, scammers have become craftier and may pose as relatives or friends in need of help. They’ll urge you to wire money immediately to help with an emergency—like getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, or needing to leave a foreign country. Their goal is to provide a sense of urgency so that you send money quickly, before realizing it’s a scam. When faced with this situation:
Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how pressing the issue appears to be.
Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly know.
Call the phone number for the family member or friend that you know to be genuine to validate the call.
Check the story of the caller with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
Don’t wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
IF YOU BECOME A VICTIM
Have you fallen victim to a scam or fraud? If so, follow these four steps:
Tell your family or caregivers so they can help you and warn your friends.
Call your bank or credit card company to change any associated account numbers and passwords.
Document the fraud by recording dates and the names of the people and organization with whom you spoke.
Report the fraud. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their website or by calling 877-382-4357. You can also contact TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs through our website or by calling 615-741-4737.