Category Archives: Crimes Against Seniors

Don’t Be Guilty of Falling For a Jury Duty Scam


This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Serving on a jury is one of our most important responsibilities as citizens, but scammers try to use jury duty to steal from the innocent. In the latest version of this common scam, people in the Fayetteville area have gotten phone calls from a man who claims to be a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy. If you answer one of these calls, you’re told that you’ll be arrested for failing to appear for jury duty unless you pay a fine immediately.

These calls aren’t legitimate and are trying to scare you into paying money you don’t really owe.

In other versions of the jury duty scam crooks use pre-recorded messages instead of live calls, and sometimes they try to scare people into providing personal financial information which the scammers can then use to steal money and commit identity theft.

To avoid jury duty scams, remember:

• Court officers won’t ask for personal information or seek payment for fines or fees over the phone. Most court related correspondence takes place through the mail.

• Never agree to send money to someone who calls you out of the blue. Many scams ask you to wire money or send it via a Green Dot MoneyPak Card.

• Never share personal information, such as your Social Security Number or bank account number, with anyone who contacts you.
If you receive one of these calls, immediately hang up and report it to your local police department and the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.

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Walk to End Elder Abuse

2014 WEAD Walk Poster1

Watch Out For Tree Removal Scams

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Snow and ice expected to fall on much of North Carolina today and tomorrow could be followed by scammers seeking to take advantage of consumers who need help removing trees brought down by the storm.

To avoid problems when hiring a tree removal service:

  • Don’t pay upfront.  Be very wary of any request to pay deposits or other fees for tree work in advance.  Out-of-state tree cutters have been known to collect deposits from entire neighborhoods and then disappear without performing any work.  Only pay when the work is done and you are satisfied.
  • Avoid fly-by-night companies.  Tree services that knock on your door or that just arrived in town from another state may not stick around to finish the job.  Choose local companies with good reputations for the best results.
  • Check out the company.  Contact our Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau to see if they have complaints against the company.  Ask the company for local references, and look online for reviews of its work.
  • Make sure the company is insured.  If a tree removal service claims to have insurance, don’t just take their word for it. Contact the insurer directly and ask them to send you a copy of the tree removal service’s certificate of insurance.
  • Find out a fair price. Be skeptical of any price that seems unusually high or low. To find out the going rate for tree removal, get written estimates from more than one company.  Check with friends who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.
  • Don’t let anyone rush you. If an offer is only good “now or never,” find someone else to do the job.  And if the tree isn’t on your house or blocking your driveway, you may be better off waiting a few days or weeks to have it removed.
  • Ask about debris removal, too. Will the company remove the tree from your property as well as cut it down?  If not, you may wind up having to pay for debris removal.

If you have problems with a tree removal company or want to ask questions before hiring one, contact our Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.  You can also file a consumer complaint or report possible price gouging online at www.ncdoj.gov.

 

Don’t Recognize the Number? Don’t Return the Call.

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Phone-based crooks are always on the lookout for a new way to take your money. In their latest scam, they use computers to place calls to thousands of phones, including to numbers in North Carolina. After your phone rings one time, the computer ends the call but your phone captures the number of that incoming “missed” call.

Even though the number is unfamiliar, some people call back to see who called them. However, calling the number may connect you to an adult entertainment line overseas and trigger charges of $19.95 plus $9 for each minute of the call. These calls usually come from area codes in the Caribbean including 473, 809, 284, 649, or 876.

Remember, if the call you missed was legitimate and important, the caller would have left you a voicemail message or will call you back.

To protect yourself from the one-ring scam:

  • Don’t automatically return calls from numbers or area codes you don’t recognize.
  • If you don’t know the number but think the call may be legitimate, check it out by typing the number into an online search engine.  You can also search the area code to see if it’s an overseas call.
  • To avoid accidentally calling the number and falling victim to a scam, delete it from your phone.
  • Check your cell phone bill carefully, and if you get billed for one of these calls report it to your cell phone carrier.
  • If you believe that you‘ve been scammed or if you have trouble getting the charges removed from your bill, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.

Watch Out For Emails With Fake Target Websites

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

More fallout from that massive data breach from national retailer Target: fraudulent emails could be headed to your inbox.  If you get an email asking you to click on a link with “Target” in the web address, be cautious.

Soon after Target announced the security breach in December, dozens of new domain names were registered online that include “Target” along with words like “breach” or “credit cards” in the web address.

Email addresses for as many as 70 million U.S. consumers may have been stolen as part of the breach, and scammers may send phishing emails to those addresses.  These phony emails could look like they come from Target and include one of the suspicious web addresses.  The emails could be easy to fall for, especially if you are eager for information about how to deal with problems caused by the breach.

To protect yourself:

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or click on unfamiliar links. Even if the email includes a real-looking logo or legitimate sounding link, it could be a scam.
  • Beware of any email or text message that asks for your personal information. Even if the message doesn’t mention Target, it could still be a scam.  Scammers may claim your account with another store, your bank or your power company has been compromised and ask for your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number.  Legitimate companies will not ask you for this information this way.
  • Never share personal financial information by email or text message, even with someone you know and trust, because it is not secure.
  • Report phishing attempts related to the Target breach.  File a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Also, forward the entire email to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.
  • If you need to contact Target, go to a web address you know to be valid. The real website set up to provide free credit monitoring for Target customers is creditmonitoring.target.com.

For more tips on protecting yourself from crimes and scams, visit www.ncdoj.gov.

 

 

Scammers masquerading as US Postal Service, AARP

Crooks often pretend to be someone they aren’t to get you to lower your guard. Scammers have been known to claim to be government officials, your bank, your insurance or power company, law officers, lottery officials, or even your grandchild facing an emergency in order to try to steal your personal information and your money.

Now scammers are pretending to with the US Postal Service (USPS) and AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

An AARP member reported being contacted by someone who said he was collecting personal information from members because recent storms had wiped out the organization’s database. The call appeared to come from Washington, DC. The AARP member wisely hung up the phone.

In the case of the fake postal employee, the caller manipulated Caller ID technology to make it appear that the call had actually come from a USPS facility in California. The consumer picked up the phone and heard a recording encouraging him to apply for a lower credit card interest rate.  Recognizing the call as a scam, the consumer did the right thing by hanging up.

Remember, legitimate organizations aren’t going to call you and ask for your personal information over the phone. If you get a suspicious phone call, don’t respond. Instead, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.

SENATE AGING COMMITTEE LAUNCHES NEW ANTI-FRAUD HOTLINE

If you or someone you know suspect you have been victim of a scam or fraud aimed at seniors, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has set up a new toll-free hotline to help.  It will be staffed by a team of committee investigators weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. .

The investigators, who have experience with investment scams, identity theft, bogus sweepstakes and lottery schemes, Medicare and Social Security fraud, and a variety of other senior exploitation issues, will directly examine complaints and, if appropriate, refer them to the proper authorities.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud can call the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470, or contact the committee through its website, located at www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline.

As chairman and ranking member of the committee, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have made consumer protection and fraud prevention a primary focus of the committee’s work. This year the panel has held hearings examining Jamaican lottery scams, tax-related identity theft, Social Security fraud and payday loans impact on seniors.

“If you’re contacted about an offer that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” Nelson said.

“This new hotline will give seniors a resource to turn to for assistance if they think they’ve been victimized or have questions about fraudulent activities.” “Ensuring that seniors are as equipped as possible to avoid becoming victims of fraud and other scams is among our committee’s top priorities,” said Collins. “This new hotline offered by the Senate Special Committee on Aging will help to identify and put a stop to the cruel scams that hurt seniors and their families.” The hotline’s unveiling also coincides with the committee’s launch of an enhanced senior-friendly website. The site’s new features include large print, simple navigation and an uncluttered layout that enables seniors to find information more easily and conveniently. Online visitors can also increase text size, change colors or view a text-only version of the site.

To view the new website, visit www.aging.senate.gov.

Watch Out For Phony IRS Calls

North Carolinians are getting phone messages from people who pretend to be with the Internal Revenue Service. The callers claim that you owe back taxes and urge you or your lawyer to return the call immediately. When you do, they suggest that you pay what they claim you owe using your credit card—and of course they’re happy to take your payment right over the phone.

The scammers often call again and again, hoping you’ll eventually call back. They may use technology to make it look like they’re calling from inside the United States, but we think the calls actually come from South Asia.

Scammers posing as government officials aren’t new.  Be suspicious whenever anyone claiming to be with the government contacts you out of the blue to demand payment.  Sometimes the scammer will pretend to be a US Marshall or FBI agent and threaten to arrest you or seize your property if you don’t pay them quickly for debts they say you owe.  Or a fake federal officer may claim they’re calling to help you collect prize money you’ve supposedly won—but need you to pay them taxes or fees first.

These telemarketing scams and tricks come in all shapes and sizes. Be alert, keep your guard up, and don’t let anyone trick you into forking over your hard-earned dollars.

If you receive one of these suspicious phone calls, don’t respond. Instead, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

“Obamacare” Scams Emerge as New Policies Scammers Exploit Affordable Care Act

via Senior Grapevine and the Better Business Bureau

“Obamacare” Scams Emerge as New Policies Scammers are exploiting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Many key provisions of the ACA went into effect on October 1st, so don’t let confusion around the new law cause you to fall for a scam.

How the Scam Works:

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The caller informs you that you’ve been selected to receive insurance cards through the new Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). However, before he/she can mail your card, the caller needs to collect personal information.

Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank’s routing number and ask you to provide your account number. Or, they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information.

Sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft. Scammers can use the information they obtain to open credit cards in your name or steal from your bank account.

How to Spot a Scam and Protect Yourself:

Con artists are taking advantage of the confusion and buzz surrounding the Affordable Care Act implementation. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

• Hang up, don’t press any buttons and, if you received a voice mail message, don’t call the scammer back. We all like to have the last word, but returning the phone call may just give the con artist information he can use.

• The government typically doesn’t call, text or email. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited calls, text messages or emails you receive. Also, if the government is contacting you, they should already have your basic personal info, such as your Social Security number.

• Don’t trust Caller ID. Scammers have technology that lets them display any number or organization name on your screen.

• There is only one place to shop for a qualified health plan: www.HealthCare.gov, which is run by the FTC’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Who is Being Targeted?

Anyone can be the victim of this scam, but some groups are more likely to be targeted than others. The new law has special provisions for the following groups:

• People 65 years or older
• Persons with disabilities
• Owners of small businesses

For More Information

More information on the ACA is available from the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

To find out more about scams, check out the BBB Scam Stopper

Senior Have More Trouble Recognizing An Honest Face

A new article published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) describes two studies that suggest our abilities to detect untrustworthiness diminishes as we get older.

The research focuses on the ability to recognize ‘trustworthy’ and ‘untrustworthy’ faces. Taking cohorts of younger and older adults, the first study asked them to rate faces as being trustworthy, neutral, or untrustworthy. Both age groups were just as good for labeling people as trustworthy or neutral, but when it came to untrustworthy, the groups split — older participants being less likely to flag those faces as dishonest.

In the second study, the same test was run with new participants hooked up to MRI scans. Researchers discovered that the older group had less activity in their anterior insula than the younger group. The anterior insula  is an area of the brain related to perceiving risk and producing ‘gut instinct’ warning signs.

Want to learn more?  Check out the full study at PNAS.org.