When I got my landline phone number a few years back, I realized it had been someone else’s number before it was mine.
But it took me a little while to figure out why all of the sudden I was getting so many calls about health care and senior services a couple of years ago. The previous owner of my number must have turned a special age that put my phone number on the lists of several companies and organizations and most likely a few scam operations as well.
It’s deplorable, but it’s reality. Our seniors are often the target of financial scams. The National Council on Aging offers several tips on ways to protect yourself or the seniors you love from scams and avoid consumer fraud.
- Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and from persons closest to you.
- Do not isolate yourself—stay involved with friends, family, and community activities!
- Always tell salespeople that come to your door or call you on the phone: “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Please send me your information in writing.”
- Shred all receipts with your credit card number.
- Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list (www.donotcall.gov) to prevent telemarketers from calling and take yourself off multiple mailing lists. Phone: 1-888-382-1222
- Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox.
- Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
Be skeptical of all unrequested offers and thoroughly do your research if you are seeking any type of services. Also, be sure to get references when possible. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Each year Americans lose $100 billion to consumer fraud and more than 30 percent involve victims over age 65. Older adults are often the target for a variety of reasons. Many times older adults are lonely, because their own family members do not take the time to call or visit with them. Scammers take advantage of this desire for conversation and can easily begin a friendship with this lonely person. Often times seniors have a more difficult time seeing or hearing, and not wanting to be impolite, will agree to things they don’t fully understand because of their physical limitations.
Seniors account for 60 percent of all victims of fraudulent prize offers and sweepstakes. The internet is also a growing area for scams. These include deceptive internet sales companies, fake web sites, official looking e-mails that are phishing for your personal data, and intrusion by hackers.
If you ever think that you may be the victim of fraud, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell someone you trust or call the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), or Job and Family Services at 740-622-1020 (during office hours) or 740-622-2411 (after hours). You can learn more about protecting yourself from scams at ncoa.org.
Today I’ll leave you with this quote from Albert Einstein: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.“
Emily Buxton Adams is the Family and Consumer Sciences educator with the Coshocton County office of Ohio State University Extension.