5 Tips for LGBT Older People to Avoid Fraud
October 2018 | William Chalkley, with Top10VPN
5 Tips for LGBT Older People to Avoid Fraud
In 2017, more seniors were targeted for fraud and financial exploitation than ever before. America’s seniors work hard to prepare for retirement, yet their high savings and trusting nature leave them vulnerable to exploitation by strangers online, over the phone, and through the mail.
Though the community receives greater recognition, understanding, and support than ever before, LGBT older adults often feel isolated and alone. This isolation and limited interaction can make an older person even more vulnerable to the affected charms and friendliness of cold callers and scam artists, who often work to forge a sense of trust and understanding with lonely victims.
Whether the scams involve telemarketing, identity theft, healthcare fraud, or any other ploy, we must work to educate ourselves and those around us to protect the vulnerable from threats and encourage the exposure of abuse. Whether you’re an older adult or someone that cares for one, knowing how to avoid these scams can help combat this epidemic and prevent these distressing crimes from happening.
1. Unsolicited Phone Calls
Never give out personal information over the phone to someone you do not know. Identity thieves are clever: they often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, and government agencies to convince victims to reveal their account numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and other valuable information.
If you receive a surprise inquiry from a company or agency seeking personal information, do not provide it. Instead, hang up and call the official phone number on your account statement, in the phonebook, or on the institution’s website to find out if the request was legitimate. Sensitive personal and financial documents should also be kept secure at all times. Shred receipts, credit offers, statements, and expired credit cards to prevent ‘dumpster divers’ from getting your information.
The IRS and similar agencies will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill. If you’re bothered by lots of unsolicited calls, contact your phone provider. Ask them what services it provides to block unwanted calls. You can also put your phone number on the Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222.
2. Healthcare or Medicare Fraud
Fraudsters often try to obtain an elderly person’s social security number (SSN) to defraud healthcare programs or personal accounts. Other healthcare-related schemes may include offers for fake marketplace assistance, medications, supplements, and weight loss products, or the abuse of stolen health information. These scams are often initiated through calls, spam emails, internet advertisements, links in forums, and fraudulent websites.
Remember, neither Medicare nor Social Security will call to ask for your bank information or SSN. There will never be a fee charged to obtain a Social Security or Medicare card. Always review your medical bills to spot records of services that you didn’t receive.
3. Investment Fraud
Vulnerable older investors are often targeted to make purchases on the basis of false information, usually offering large returns with minimal risk. Common variations of this type of fraud include retirement schemes, Ponzi schemes, and pyramid schemes. Unlike other scams, those who do business with an unlicensed broker or a firm that later goes out of business may have no way to recover their money down the line.
Always check to see if the opportunity you are considering is registered by contacting your state securities regulator. Make sure the person and their firm are well known and have been properly licensed and regulated. You can check out the disciplinary history of brokers and advisers for free using the SEC’s and FINRA’s online databases.
Scam artists are counting on you not to investigate before you invest. Always ask questions and watch out for pitches that stress how many others have bought the product. Be especially careful of unsolicited offers and courtship through free seminars, gifts, or lunches. There is never a reason to make a quick or unsubstantiated decision on an investment. As a general rule, choose everyday investments that can be bought and sold through well-known brokerage firms or mutual fund companies.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Statement
Make sure to review your credit card and bank statements at least monthly. Track down any unexplained charges and report them to the bank; even very small charges should be accounted for. When credit card details are stolen, it is common for the thieves to put through a small initial charge to ensure the card is still valid.
Many credit card companies and some banks will allow you to set up activity alerts. This will let you keep track of banking activity closer to ‘real time’ rather than waiting for monthly statements.
Credit monitoring companies are required to provide free credit reports at least annually. Take advantage of this service and review your reports to check for accounts that you didn’t open.
5. Tech Support Fraud
This is a widespread scam in which criminals claim to provide customer, security, or technical support in an effort to defraud unwitting individuals and gain access to their devices. Do not give control of your computer, credit card, or financial information to a third party that calls you out of the blue. Remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals.
If you want to contact tech support, call them directly. Be cautious of phone numbers obtained via open-source internet searches. Instead, look for a company’s contact information on its software package or on your receipt. If a caller repeatedly pressures you to buy a security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, resist the pressure to act quickly, and hang up. Criminals often use a fabricated sense of urgency to lure them into immediate action.
Make sure you have updated all of your computer’s anti-virus software, firewalls, and popup blockers. Install ad-blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-ups.
Often, targets may not recognize they have fallen victim to a scam. If they do, many are uncertain about which law enforcement or consumer protection agency they should contact.
If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, visit the resources below to find the best route to reporting the crime and resolving the issue. For further information, you can also visit this guide to get a full list of current scams along with information on how to identify, prevent, and report them to the appropriate state and federal agencies.
Additional Resources and Information
Prepared for the National Resource Center by William Chalkley, Top10VPN. Top10VPN produces resources to help safeguard communities from online privacy and security threats. They’re also the world’s largest VPN review website, providing detailed reviews and exclusive deals on popular services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.