As the country continues to struggle greatly with the pandemic, the scammers are hard at work as their approaches are becoming more sophisticated on many fronts. We are exhausted but must stay diligent as the Federal Trade Commission continues to report many fraudulent activities. Let’s take a look at the continued assault through calls and email.
“FTC’s 12 Days of Consumer Protection”: What a great communication tool to stay current on the hot spots that are reported to the FTC. Sign up for your alerts: consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/12/first-day-consumer-protection. One of the most problematic: check scams. It comes in different ways but the common ones are a) you are sent a check or b) you are alerted to winnings when you did not enter to win. In situation a, you receive a check and you are asked to deposit it (you overpaid on your utility bill/looks more legitimate than an out-of-country lottery you won) and then forward a piece of it to a third-party company for “processing.” Once the check is deposited and “cleared,” it does not mean it is good. It may take weeks for the bank to determine the check is fake or there are no funds at the time the check was processed. If you sent a portion of the funds to another party, you are out that amount with no ability to recover the losses. (www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/fake-check-scams-inforgraphic)
“Amazon scams”: Robo calls indicate that there is something wrong with your account. It could be a suspicious purchase, a lost package or an order that can’t be filled. “Press 1 to speak to someone to help track down the problem.” This is especially difficult this holiday season realizing the volume that is being ordered through Amazon. Never press 1. Never call the number they give you and never give them personal information. (Note: Recently we received an email from Amazon. The email address looked legitimately from Amazon-yes, they are getting much better with this camouflage. It indicated a charge for an item sent to my email but with another person’s name confirming a purchase. If there is a question, call this number. To do a little research, the call was made. Initially asked about it; asked when purchased; told the person I was talking to was the Security Officer on the floor and then asked me to confirm my email address, etc. Told them I knew this was a scam, called the credit card company and Amazon as of course, there was no charge for the item nor any record of the purchase. A lot of anguish but easy to sound legitimate to steal identity along with credit card information.)
Email addresses can still be a flag for potential scams. Scams through email usually require clicking on “view,” “update,” “click here.” Let’s look at some recent examples and see how “reward” can easily lead to accidentally exposing your device to hackers or identify theft.
EX) DocuSign Electronic Signature & invoice service. “Get your invoice from DocuSign Signature Service. Get invoice rapidly. Risk free.” Email: email@example.com “See Document” click. Includes authentic looking information by visiting their webpage and entering security code. But, which company sent this invoice? Received second email, same heading but a new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alerts: Never click and always look at the email address for suspicious activity.
Ex) IRS Assistance Programs. “Check your eligibility for Tax Free assistance – TAX Fresh Start Programs. Click here.” Email address: email@example.com. Nope.
EX) Costco Shopper Feedback. “Congratulations! You have selected to receive an exclusive offer! Complete this short 30-second survey about your experience and get your reward. Click -Start now.” Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Nope.
EX) FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC. Anti-terrorist and monetary crimes division. Email to inform you that we have completed an investigation of an international lottery and you have funds to collect.” Considerable information is requested and ‘fill out the form’ to get your funds. At first glance, looks intimidating but look at the email address: email@example.com. Nope.
Golden rules to protect your identity and resources:
Never give your personal information to anyone.
Never click or go to a link unless you requested the information or reference from a trusted source.
Never return a call or answer a call from an unknown number.
Always read the email address and when in doubt, do a search for credibility.
Always report any fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. Be sure to sign up to get your free alerts or to file a complaint, go to ftc.gov/complaint or call 202-322-2222.
UPDATE: The “Medicare 101, Social Security Benefits and Assistance for Senior Boot Camp” has been delayed until the second quarter of 2021. Our community outreach education will resume when it is safe for all of us. All the fun related topics will be included. See you in 2021!
Day Egusquiza is the president and founder of the Patient Financial Navigator Foundation Inc. — an Idaho-based family foundation. For more information, call 208-423-9036 or go to pfnfinc.com. Do you have a topic for Health Care Buzz? Please share at firstname.lastname@example.org.