By Heather McKinney~
For seniors, COVID-19 is more than just a health threat. Financial scams aimed at seniors have come back in a significant way – all with a COVID-19 twist. Here are some common scams surfacing in pandemic times.
HOW IT WORKS: Scammers offering “free” medical supplies or treatments through telemarketing calls, internet ads, emails, and social media. They ask for Medicare information and use it to bill federal healthcare programs; Medicare can then deny the unapproved treatments, making you responsible for the costs. Meanwhile, the scammer makes off with the money from Medicare.
THE COVID TWIST: Scammers now offer “free” COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
RECOVERY: If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, report it to 1-800-MEDICARE.
PREVENTION: If you receive a call from “Medicare,” hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE. Scammers can adjust their caller-IDs to say anything they want. Do not provide any personal information to unsolicited callers.
HOW IT WORKS: A caller claiming to be from the IRS pressures you into revealing your social security number, birthday, bank details, or address. They may also demand tax payments through a wire transfer or a gift card from Amazon, iTunes, or Visa.
THE COVID TWIST: Scammers now pretend to be from the IRS and ask for personal information to “process your Economic Impact Payments.”
RECOVERY: If you wired money or sent a gift card to a scammer, there are unfortunately very few ways to recover. For wires, you can try submitting a claim to your bank or to the wiring institution. For gift cards, you can try reporting the card as stolen by calling the company’s customer service number.
PREVENTION: The IRS will never call you or accept payments via wire transfer or gift card. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, hang up. You can check your Economic Impact Payment status and contact the IRS via their website or by calling 800-919-9835.
HOW IT WORKS: An unexpected visitor knocks on your door, claims to be from a utility company, and insists on conducting an immediate inspection. While you are distracted by one “worker,” another will search your home and steal valuables like jewelry, cash, or electronics.
THE COVID TWIST: The visitor says your water is “contaminated by COVID-19” and requires immediate inspection.
RECOVERY: Call 911 and report any theft right away. Contact your bank and the credit reporting agencies if your checkbook, social security card, or credit cards have been compromised.
PREVENTION: Do not answer the door or allow anyone into your home unless you have made an appointment in advance. All utility companies or city employees wear distinct uniforms with ID badges and drive identifiable vehicles. Demand to see identification if you are not expecting visitors.
There is no need to be embarrassed if you are among the millions of seniors who have been scammed; they are increasingly common. But by reporting the problem, discussing it with your friends and family, and equipping yourself with knowledge, you can prevent re-victimization and save other seniors from getting scammed.