In an effort to stop the spread of a dangerous respiratory illness called Covid-19 (coronavirus), most Californians have been staying at home more than normal in recent weeks. The coronavirus is known to be more serious in older adults, and those with underlying health issues. As a result of the pandemic, older adults have been advised to only leave their home for essential needs. Unfortunately, spending so much time at home allows seniors to be more exposed to scams.
News and information continues to change rapidly, even though most are stuck at home. While it can be difficult to keep up, it is still critical for seniors to be aware of scams.
Watch out for individuals or businesses who promise to help get stimulus money more quickly, or sell cures or medication to prevent or treat the virus. Scammers are also using old tricks like pretending to be a grandkid in trouble, or saying your Social Security is being terminated. Be cautious of anyone who requests personal information, and stay alert.
Here are a few reminders on how to keep your distance from scams:
D – Don’t let your guard down. Don’t be afraid to hang up or close the door!
I – Interact regularly with friends and family to stay in the loop.
S – Seek help from trusted sources if you are not sure what to do.
T – Take a deep breath. Anxiety and panic do not help make good decisions.
A – Always verify information, and ask for details in writing.
N – Note who is contacting you, and have a response ready.
C – Consider reporting scams to the FTC, Attorney General, police, etc.
E – Educate yourself and your neighbors, so they will stay safe too.
Stay tuned to our blog for future scam updates. Our attorneys are working remotely, and can offer legal advice to residents of San Diego and Imperial County free of charge. Let us know what scams you are seeing in your neighborhood, and stay well!
Here are a few helpful links for those who would like to read more:
Official California Covid-19 Coronavirus Response Page: https://covid19.ca.gov/
County of San Diego – Coronavirus Updates & Resources: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/community_epidemiology/dc/2019-nCoV.html
California Dept. of Aging Resource List: https://www.aging.ca.gov/covid19/
SDGE Utility Scam Assistance: https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/assistance-help/scams
Social Security Administration Press Releases: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/
Federal Trade Commission- Scam Alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
2020 Census Information: https://2020census.gov/en.html
California Attorney General – Protecting Consumers: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Consumer Info Blog: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/?categories=info-for-consumers
I know, 60-year-olds. You’re not old. In fact, we’ve found that, when people think “old,” they think of someone about 10 years older than they are right now. But, because we’ve been warned about the effects of the Coronavirus on people 60+, listen up. Because scammers follow the headlines and know you might have this on your mind.
Right now, scammers are scuttling out of their dark corners to offer false hope (Home test kits! A cure!) and use fear (Your Social Security number is about to be revoked! Your loved one is in trouble!) – all to get your money or information. (None of those things are real, by the way.) They’re asking for your bank routing number to “help” you get your relief money – which is not how you’ll get it, by the way. They’re sending fake emails that look real, but those fake CDC or World Health Organization emails are trying to steal your personal information – or, if you click a link, put malware on your computer, tablet, or phone. Scammers are calling (and calling…and calling…), using illegal robocalls to pitch you the latest scammy thing. They’re texting, and they’re all over social media.
So, while you’re washing your hands and working to stay safe, here are a few ways you can help protect yourself – and those you love – from scammers.
- Don’t be rushed. Whatever the call, email, text, or social media post is about, remember that scammers try to rush you. Legit people don’t.
- Check it out. Before you act on something or share it – stop. Do some research. Do the facts back up the story?
- Pass it on. If you get offered something great, or you’re worried about something alarming: talk to someone you trust before you act. What do they think?
- Keep in touch with the FTC. Sign up for Consumer Alerts to help spot scams: ftc.gov/subscribe. And watch for the latest at ftc.gov/coronavirus.
- Report scams to the FTC. Go to ftc.gov/complaint. Your report can help us shut the scammers down.
Want to help even more? Pass this post on. Tell a friend. And hey, let’s be careful out there.
*This information was provided by the Federal Trade Commission
(Executive Director’s Scam Alert August 2019)
The caller identified himself as working for “card member services”, representing all of the major credit card companies. He said he could drop my interest rate on my credits cards by 1/3. He asked me to confirm my full name and home address (he had my correct address) and that I had a Visa or MasterCard. He claimed to have ‘pulled up’ my accounts and then wanted me to confirm the entire card number for one of my credit card accounts so he could verify it was really me.
Instead of giving him a credit card number, I asked him to give me the last 4 numbers of any of my accounts that he had ‘pulled up’. Things got interesting after that. We went back and forth, each demanding that the other verify the information. I explained that I am an attorney who works for a non-profit legal services organization and that I research financial scams targeting seniors. The caller was not concerned. He forcefully informed me that unless I gave him a credit card number, he would not be able to transfer me to the accounts manager who would be the one to lower my interest rate. After the call ended, I received several (unanswered) calls from similar numbers.
Don’t fall for this one! This scam has been around for a long time because it is successful in getting credit card numbers and other personal information, then stealing identities and making unauthorized credit card purchases. Instead, call your credit company and ask for an interest rate reduction yourself. It may or may not be successful, but you won’t be putting your financial future at risk.
From our Executive Director’s Desk
Like many of you, our blog readers, I am a senior. And as a senior, I get calls from strangers trying to sell me things.
Last week, I received a call from yet another stranger. Because I research scams targeting seniors, I didn’t hang up.
The caller told me he was sure I could use a back brace and assured me it was absolutely free – no cost to me. All he needed was my full name, date of birth, address for shipping and Medicare number. When I refused to give out my personal information or Medicare number, he hung up.
This attempt at Medicare fraud was unsuccessful because I am aware of how it works. If you get a call like this, never give out any personal information or your Medicare number. Your personal information can be sold to other scammers, and you may be denied needed durable medical equipment in the future by Medicare.
Have a question about a call you received or a letter that came in the mail?
Call Elder Law & Advocacy
San Diego County: 858-565-1392
Imperial County: 760-3530223
Our 88 year old client was approached by 3 door – to – door salespeople about applying a special, “environmentally friendly” exterior paint to her home. Our client explained that she had just had her home painted but they wouldn’t leave until she agreed to the work. Feeling pressured, she signed some papers to get these 3 strangers out of her home.
The men told her PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing would take care of it and help her out. The contract price was over $28,000, adding $2,800 to her property tax bill for 20 years.
Could she afford it? No! Did she understand how PACE financing works? No!
Maybe it could happen to you. To protect yourself, don’t open the door to people who just show up.
Talk “through the door” before opening it because once you let them in, it can be very hard to get them out.
If you are a senior and have questions about a home improvement contract, call us for free legal assistance. Our attorneys will review your documents.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY: 858-565-1392
IMPERIAL COUNTY: 760-353-0223
Remember, take your time before you sign.
In San Diego and Imperial Counties, sales people are going door-to-door, talking to homeowners about lowering their electric bills. They want to sell products such as solar panels, insulating exterior paint, new windows, artificial turf other products. They are targeting older homeowners who might have lots of equity in their homes.
As part of their sales pitch, these people are lying, telling homeowners there is a “free” government sponsored program, or that there is special financing with great rates and no payments for one year. They sometimes ask the homeowner to “sign” on the sales person’s phone or portable laptop.
In reality, these products are not free and often overpriced. The “special financing” is through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which adds the cost of these products onto your property tax bill for years. If you don’t pay the full tax bill, you can face foreclosure.
To be safe, don’t open your door to these sales people and hang up when they call. You need your home so don’t let them take it from you.
Question? Call Elder Law & Advocacy at (858) 565-1392