For this week’s Tuesday’s Tips, the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is offering guidance to help prevent and protect seniors from consumer fraud and scammers in advance of National Senior Citizens Day on August 21st. Financial fraud and exploitation is one of the most prevalent types of elder abuse, and a recent AARP report estimates that the annual loss of victims of financial abuse in the United State is assessed to be at least $28.3 billion dollars. Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.
“Older adults are too often targeted by predators that use a number of ever-evolving consumer fraud scams to steal personal information, money or more,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “To help better protect our loved ones, these tips help to warn older adults and their family members about the different kinds of fraudulent schemes scammers use so they can avoid falling prey to their tricks.”
New York State Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, "Scammers often use seemingly realistic or convincing scenarios to trick people into sending money or providing personal information. Older adults can protect themselves from being defrauded by exercising caution and by not clicking links or providing personal information to a person or organization that has contacted you unexpectedly. If you need assistance, or have a concern about scams, you can find local help by contacting NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871.”
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave said, “Financial fraud and exploitation of our elder New Yorkers literally robs them of the resources they need to maintain their independence, provide for their health care and other vital assistance that ensures their well-being. These crimes are often some of the most difficult to prevent and can inflict untold trauma upon the victims and their families. We thank our partners with the Division of Consumer Protection for offering these important tools and tips. You can also contact our bureau of adult services at 1-844-697-3505 for referrals on money management services and other financial programs to help protect these vulnerable New Yorkers.”
Some of the most common older adult scams include:
- Medical Device Scam: Unsolicited prerecorded messages, known as “robocalls,” offering free medical alert devices by providing an address and credit card information.
- Grandparent Scam: Scammers call or email asking for money while impersonating a beloved grandchild who is in some kind of trouble.
- Ghosting Scam: Identity thieves obtain personal information about deceased persons from obituaries, funeral homes, hospitals, stolen death certificates and online web sites and use this information to establish credit and open accounts, take out loans, receive benefits, or even collect tax refunds filed under the stolen identity.
- Jury Duty Scam: Scammers pretending to be law enforcement officers or court officials contact individuals to inform them that they have failed to report to jury duty and must pay a fine by credit card to avoid an arrest.
- Funeral Notification Scam: Scammers send emails deceptively informing recipients of an upcoming farewell ceremony in remembrance of a friend or loved one, and upon clicking a link provided in the email, victims are sent to a third-party website where malicious software is downloaded so scammers can gain access to the user’s information.
- Sweepstakes Scam: Scammers entice consumers with various prize offers and then ask you to share personal information or pay a fee to enter the sweepstakes.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Imposter Scam: Phone scammers impersonate IRS agents and demand immediate payment of overdue taxes from victims via debit card or wire transfer to avoid being arrested.
- Free Grant Scam: Scammers promise fraudulent grants in print or over the phone and ask for bank account and routing numbers.
For more information about how you can recognize the most common older adult scams or for more scam prevention tips, download The Division of Consumer Protection’s informative Senior Anti-Fraud Education (S.A.F.E.) brochure. If you have parents or older family members, take the time to explain these scams to them.
Here are a few tips to follow if you or someone you know receives a call or email you believe to be a scam:
- RESIST the urge to act immediately - no matter how dramatic the story is.
- VERIFY the caller’s identity - ask questions that a stranger couldn’t answer. Check with a family member to see if the information is true.
- DO NOT send cash, gift cards or money transfers. Once the scammer gets the money - it’s gone!
- DO NOT give your personal banking account information by email or over the phone OR log into bank accounts as directed by the caller (scammers can steal your information using screen mirroring).
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.