By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Ltd.
For almost two years now, representatives of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office have been going around Illinois conducting informational programs to help older adults protect themselves against financial scams and healthcare fraud.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was the guest speaker.
The reason that we focus on older adults is that we have seen an increase in scams, especially against older adults, said Madigan.
Here are five of the tips that were shared during the program:
1) Never wire money to a stranger or to someone who claims they know you.
One popular scam is commonly referred to as the Grandparents Scam. A scam artist calls a grandparent and claims to be a either a grandson or granddaughter or an attorney, paralegal or law enforcement officer calling on behalf of a grandchild.
The caller tells the grandparent that a grandchild has gotten into trouble, usually in a foreign country, but the situation can be cleared up if the grandparent immediately wires a large sum of money. A grandparent is being asked to wire the money because the grandchild does not want his or her parents to know about the problem.
Scammers love wire transfers because wiring money is just like sending cash. Wire transfers can be useful when you want to send funds to someone you know and trust. But if you wire money away to a scam artist, especially one in a foreign country, the Attorney General’s Office probably will not be able to get it back for you.
2) Never let someone who happens to show up at your door into your house.
Another popular scam involves a scam artist showing up at your door, claiming to be a person that does home repair.
You cannot trust people who just happen to show up at your door. Do not let them into your house. This includes police officers. If a police officer shows up at your door, pick up your phone and call the police department for verification. Tell the person who answers the phone who you are and where you live. Ask the person if the department sent an officer to your house. For others, you can suggest that they leave whatever information they have in a spot outside your house.
At the same time, do not pretend that you are not at home. Let them know that you are there because if they think you are away, they will kick in the door.
Also, Madigan mentioned to those in attendance, if you call the Attorney General’s Office and give us the name of the company, someone in the office can tell you if we have complaints, if there is an investigation underway, or if any lawsuits have been filed against the company.
3) Never routinely carry your Social Security or your Medicare Cards with you.
Your Social Security number is the key ingredient in Identity Theft so you should not routinely carry around with you cards that have your Social Security number on them. You do not need to have your Medicare card with you at all times.
If there is an emergency situation where your Medicare number is needed for billing purposes and you are unable to immediately show your card, you can always provide the health care provider(s) with the information at a later date and the provider can re-bill Medicare.
If you are going to the doctor, take your Medicare card with you and then immediately put it back in a safe place.
4) Never give out personal or financial info to someone who calls you on the phone or e-mails you.
A popular Identify Theft scam involves scam artists fishing for information over the phone or on-line.
They might blame the need to verify an account number, Social Security number and/or password on your bank’s computer crashing.
No financial institution will ever call you and ask you to verify an account number, social security number or password over the telephone.
It is shrewd, not rude, to hang up the phone when a stranger calls you and asks you to send money or give out personal information.
5) Be sure to check your credit report.
One way to verify if you have been a victim of Identity Theft is to check your credit report.
You can obtain your free annual credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228 . The first time, the Attorney General’s Office recommends getting reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all at the same time. Next year, obtain a report from one of the three; the following year, from the second of the three; the third year, from the remaining company; and then continue following the sequence on an annual basis.
Be sure to steer clear of look-alike Web sites that charge for reports, the Attorney General’s Office advises, but keep in mind that your free report will not include your credit score; by law, the companies have the ability to charge a “reasonable” fee for your credit score.
If you see any errors, inaccuracies or authorized accounts on your Credit Report, the Attorney General’s Office advises you to contact the Credit Reporting Agency. You only need to notify one of the three as the one you notify will inform the other two.
If it is determined that you have been the victim of Identity Theft, you should notify your creditors and contact the Attorney General’s Office:
Identity Theft Hotline – 866-999-5630
Linea Gratuita en Espanol – 866-310-8398
For more information on how older adults can protect themselves against scams, exploitation and fraud can be found by going to the Illinois Attorney General’s website http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/secc.html
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
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Tags: Arlington Heights Senior Center, Credit Report, Credit Reporting Agency, Equifax, Experian, Identity Theft, Identity Theft Hotline, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy, Medicare, Social Security, The Silver Beat, TransUnion