“Congratulations – YOU WON!”
Sound familiar? You get a card, a call or an email saying you won! Maybe it’s a trip or prize, a lottery or sweepstakes. The person calling is so excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings. Frequently they’ll explain you entered a sweepstakes contest several weeks ago and you’re the winner. You don’t remember entering a contest or, if you did, can’t remember which one it was. Your mind is a whirl of thoughts and fantasies as to how you are going to spend all this money – it couldn’t have come at a better time.
But here’s what happens next: They tell you there’s a fee, some taxes, special handling or customs duties to pay. And then they ask you for your credit card number or bank account information or they ask you to wire money. Either way, you lose money instead of winning. You don’t ever get that big prize. Instead, you will get more requests for money and more promises that you won big.
Here’s what you can do:
• Hang up on robocalls. If you pick up the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, simply hang up. These calls are illegal. And plentiful. Don’t press 1, 2 or any number to get on a list or speak to a person. That just means you’ll get even more calls in the future.
• Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make caller ID look like anyone is calling: the IRS, a business or government office — even your own phone number. However, getting a caller ID/answering device will help ease your aggravation. If you’re worried about missing an important call – don’t. If the caller really wants to get important information to you, they will leave a message. These devices are easily purchased and installed. I highly recommend you have one.
• Don’t push “9” to be removed from their calling list. All that does is put you on other lists to be called again and again and again by other scammers.
• Don’t agree to anything. Upon answering you are immediately asked if you can hear the caller clearly. You politely answer “yes.” The caller is recording the conversation and now has a recording of you saying “yes.” Later, a service or item is billed to you and you call to question the purchase. The scammer immediately plays a fraudulent/edited conversation of him asking your consent and you suddenly hear yourself saying “yes.”
• Keep your money – and your information – to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it. And never wire money to anyone who asks you to. If they tell you to pay money for any reason, or ask for your personal financial account numbers, hang up. If you think the caller might be legitimate, call back to a number you know is genuine – not the number the caller gave you. For instance, if your “credit card company” is calling asking you for information, don’t give it to them. Instead, look on a recent bill and call the number on it instead. They can confirm if the caller is from their company and legitimate.
• Talk to someone. Before you give your money or information, talk to someone you trust. Scammers want you to make a decision in a hurry. Slow down, check out their story, search online – or just tell a friend. We find the people who talk to someone – anyone – are much less likely to fall for a scam.
• Pass this information on to a friend. You probably throw away these kinds of scams or hang up when you get these calls. But you probably know someone who could use a friendly reminder.
In 1989, the Florida legislature ordered a task force to be formed to report on crime and the elderly. The Seniors vs Crime Project is sponsored by the Florida Attorney General as a way to reinforce the message of crime prevention and to provide methods by which Florida’s senior population could be alerted to consumer fraud, con games, and other criminal acts. The mission of the Seniors vs Crime is to help seniors help themselves by managing financial responsibility. We do that through education, counseling, mediation of conflict, and referral to law-enforcement. If there is a question, topic or area of concern that you would like discussed in this monthly column, you may contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel someone has taken advantage of you, cheated you out of money, or has not delivered what was promised, contact your nearest Seniors vs Crime office. Call us at (800) 203–3099, or visit our website at www.seniorsvscrime.com.