Sign stating 6 scams to avoid

In the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic changed our culture and our economy, resulting in a growing number of new scams. Many of which target 55 years and older. Here are 6 common scams to be aware of so you can protect yourself.

  1. Covid-19 Testing Scams
  2. Vaccine Scams
  3. Amazon Shopping Scams
  4. Government Agency Stand-ins 
  5. The Grandparent Scam
  6. The Real Estate Scam

1. Covid-19 Testing Scams

Reputable medical researchers and government agencies are gathering information about the virus and may reach out. They may ask questions about if you've contracted Covid and how it has impacted your health, especially if you have recently tested positive.

Real poll-takers and researchers will ask about symptoms, but will not ask for sensitive information, personal details or payment. If someone contacts you and asks you to send personal details like SSN for "contact-tracing" hang up immediately.

When purchasing at-home Covid-19 tests, be sure you are buying from a legitimate FDA-approved source. Many scammers are attempting to sell fake tests online for a profit. Analyze your purchases carefully before buying. Do an online search including the product's name and the words "scam" or "complaint" and see what you find.

2. Vaccine Scams

Whether you are getting vaccinated or receiving a booster, it is important to avoid Covid-19 scams. the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers some suggestions to keep you safe from COVIS vaccine scams. If you are asked to pay for a COVID vaccine or to get on a waiting list, it may be a scam. 

Medicare pays for the COVID-19 vaccine in full and most pharmacies are offering free COVID vaccines to all who call and schedule an appointment.

Companies who are less-than-trustworthy are likely to advertise COVID vaccines through social media, email, phone calls and other unknown-unsolicited sources. Schedule your shot with a trusted medical office or pharmacy or verify the legitimacy of your vaccine provider online before getting vaccinated.

Steer clear of marketers that offer to mail doses of the vaccine to you directly. To help citizens avoid falling victim to a COVID vaccine scam the FBI and other government agencies have put together a list of common COVID-19 scams accessible here.

3. Amazon Shopping Scams

With the rise of COVID and the effort to stay germ-free, seniors have joined the Internet commerce world at unprecedented rates. According to NPD Group, Americans aged 65+ spent 49% more last year shopping online.

Buying online means avoiding crowds and contagions, but it also makes shoppers more susceptible to scams. Internet shopping fraud is on the rise.

Scammers will often contact shoppers with an email, text or phone call and pretend to be from Amazon. They will insist your account was hacked or that there is a problem with your recent order. Sometimes they say they owe you a refund or that they are calling to help you activate a gift card. No matter the approach, their goal is always the same: to get your information and your money.

If you receive an email, text or phone call from an online vendor that seems suspicious-especially if it requests access or asks for passwords, account numbers or credit card info-do not reply. Instead, call the phone number listed on Amazon's official website.

4. Government Agency Stand-ins

Scammers love to pose as Social Security Representatives. Because older citizens often depend on Social Security benefits, getting a call about suspending payments or a social security number (SSN) is concerning. If you do receive a high-pressure or threatening call claiming a Social Security issue, it is very likely a scam.

Government agencies as the SSA and the IRS will not call requesting immediate payment, or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or threaten to involve law enforcement groups. The SSA also states that although they use text, email and social media to build awareness about their programs, they will never request personal or financial information through those methods. Unsolicited calls from the government about COVID-relief programs or stimulus payments are likely fake.

Here are some tips from both the IRS and the SSA to help protect you from these scams:

  •  If you receive a call claiming to be from Social Security and requesting personal information: hang up and call the Social Security office yourself at 1-800-772-1213
  • Do not send a payment via wire transfer, retail gift card, internet currency or mailed cash
  • Do not provide your SSN to incoming callers
  • Report suspicious calls and emails to the Office of the Inspector General 
  • Spread awareness by telling your friends and family

5. The Grandparent Scam 

The Grandparent Scam has been around for years, but with COVID-19 on the rise, this scam has spread! A con artist claiming to be a grandchild calls a senior and explains a fake emergency (they are in the hospital with the virus or that their job shut down unexpectedly) and makes an urgent plea for funds. Often the scammer will request a "money wire immediately". They will often get the unsuspecting senior to keep the incident private by adding "I'm so embarrassed. Please don't tell Mom and Dad."

Sometimes scammers research the victim's family first to make the call more believable. Family members' names, ages, addresses and even travel plans can be found online so scammers have correct details. Protect yourself by checking in with another family member and only sending money through traceable methods.

6. The Real Estate Scam

Since the beginning of COVID pandemic, the housing market has been hot in many parts of the country, including here in Central Ohio. If you are a senior who owns a home, you have likely received a phone call from a company offering to buy your home quickly. Keep in mind, real estate transactions are public record. This means information including a copy of your deed, mortgage information, the property's sale price, and personal information of the new owners is listed online and accessible to scammers.

 if you are looking to sell a property in need of work, or a property located out of state, be aware that some companies take advantage of these situations by contacting you and offering to buy the home for a significantly reduced price. Before accepting an offer, it is always smart to research the company and work with an SRES professional who can help you navigate the sale and make sure your home is sold at market value.

If you have any additional questions or need help with a scam that may have been caught in feel free to reach out for a free confidential discussion.  

 Have You Been Scammed?

Here is what I recommend you do:

DO

Report The Fraud

Let people who can help you know about the scam. Reporting the deception can stop more individuals from being victimized. Start by contacting your bank and the Federal Trade Commission. You may also want to report issues to local police of your State Consumer Protection Office 

Work with your bank to recover lost funds

Contact your financial service provider to let them know what happened. Although there is no guarantee, they are often able to help recover your funds if you get in touch quickly

Change passwords and ignore unknown calls

After a scam, change passwords, replace any compromised credit cards and block calls from unknown numbers to avoid getting scammed again

DON'T

Don't Be Embarrassed

Fraudsters are convincing and millions of people fall victim to their tactics every year. Although it is unsettling to be taken taken in a scam, do not let those uncomfortable feelings stop you from taking action.

Don't Stay Silent

Talking to  family and friends that you trust about your experience can help you move on. Remember-they encounter scams too. Sharing your story can raise awareness and keep your loved ones safe.

Don't stop using your devices

Getting scammed can shake you u, but do not let it shut you down. Devices are still safe and useful if you take precautions.