SMART SENIORS GUIDE - NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
New York, NY, USA.
"Unfortunately, there are many ways for con artists and other criminals to gain entry into our lives: over the phone, through the Internet, sometimes in our own homes. And too many of them make it a practice to target elderly New Yorkers."
"One of our office's most important functions is protecting New Yorkers from fraud and abuse. If you believe that you or someone you know have been victimized, call us. We have investigators and prosecutors who specialize in fighting consumer fraud, neglect and abuse, and problems in the health care system. We will try to answer your questions and provide the help you need."
-New York State Office of the Attorney General Smart Seniors Guide.
Smart Seniors covers useful information to protect seniors including:
STAYING SAFE: advice for senior on how to be smart consumers, how to recognize potential scams before they happen so they won’t become a victim in the first place, and get day to day safety tips.
FIGHTING BACK: seniors will learn about the different ways scammers and those who take advantage of someone’s illness or frailty can be held accountable.
TAKING CONTROL: seniors will learn how to make sure that their health care wishes are followed if they cannot make decisions for themselves, and how to designate a person to make non-health care decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated.
Common senior scams include:
Sweepstakes Scam or ‘Foreign Lottery,’ ‘Random Drawing or ‘Millionth Customer’ -It is illegal for any sweepstakes or lottery to: claim that you are a winner unless you have actually won a prize, require that you buy something to enter the contest or to receive future sweepstakes mailings, or imply that your chances of winning are better if you make a purchase, mail fake checks that do not clearly state that they are non- negotiable and have no cash value, use seals, names or terms that imply government affiliation or endorsement, conduct a lottery over the phone or through the mail.
Grandparent Scam– usually an urgent phone call with the caller claiming to be ‘your favorite grandson’ or just says ‘it’s me’... prompting the grandparent to supply the needed name and then a request to send money.
Home Repair and Home Improvement Scams - contractors claim to have done work in the neighborhood and have leftover material or notice something wrong and in some case actually cause the damage before offering to do the repairs. Some offer free inspections and find a problem that needs an expensive solution.Scammers typically demand a payment upfront and, many do not complete the job.
Telemarketing Scams – usually ask for personal information, account numbers and passwords, birthdate, social security number, mother’s maiden name etc.
Internet Scams Targeted to Seniors – scammers scan through Social Networking Sites like Facebook looking for information to fraud seniors. Seniors should use privacy settings and passwords, make photos and information available only to those they have ‘friended,’ friend only people they know, and not post personal identifying information such birthdate, home address or phone number. Seniors should also make sure that they are on a secure website by checking if there is an “S” after the http such as https://.
Phishing - an attempt to get seniors to provide personal information such as their username, password, or credit card number. Scammers pretend to be your bank, an online store where you have shopped previously, your credit card company or a government agency. They will send you an email, call or text claiming that there’s a problem with your account asking for personal information, such as your social security number or password. Don’t ever give your personal information or passwords to someone who contacts you unsolicited. Do not click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know, no matter who they claim to be. Instead of clicking on the link, go to the browser bar and type in the web address of the company you are trying to reach. Then you can be sure that you’re on the correct website, not a fake one.
Identity Theft - seniors can protect against identity theft by shredding all papers containing personal information and keep personal information in a secure place. Use passwords on accounts. Don’t use public computers at cafes or libraries, for financial transactions. Review bank and credit card statements carefully each month to make sure there are no unauthorized charges or indications of fraudulent use and check financial accounts often.
Charity Scams - there are organizations that misuse fundraising with the majority of donations going to the fundraiser rather than the programs. Confirm that the charity is registered with the Attorney General’s Office, as required by law.
Seniors can help protect themselves against fraud and scams through the following ways:
Do Not Call Registry –home telephone numbers (landlines) and cell phone numbers can both be registered and within 31 days of registering, telemarketers with certain exceptions must remove the phone numbers from their call lists.
Opt Out 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or www.optoutprescreen.com - to opt out of unsolicited credit and insurance offers: when registering seniors will be asked to provide your home phone number, name, date of birth and Social Security number after which they should not receive any unsolicited credit and insurance offers.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) www.dmachoice.org -opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years and emails for six years. After registering with the Mail Preference Service (MPS) or Email Preference Service (EMPS) seniors will be put on a list to reduce most unsolicited mail and email. A $1 processing fee applies.
source: ag.ny.gov/press-release, New York State Office of the Attorney General Smart Seniors Guide.
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