New Scam Targeted Towards the Elder Community
Scammers, posing as the grandchildren of unsuspecting grandparents, call and pretend to be in the hospital, in jail, or stranded overseas and in urgent need of wire transfers, gift cards, or cash. By presenting an emergency in which their ‘grandchildren’ need help getting out of, scammers pressure panicked grandparents into acting before they can realize it’s a scam. These scenarios are designed by scammers to be emotional and high pressure.
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help avoid being scammed:
- Resist the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.
- Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
- Don’t send cash, gift cards, or money transfers – once the scammers get the money, it’s gone!
If you, or someone you know, have lost money to this scam, please contact the Consumer Assistance Program right away at 800-649-2424.
Don’t Get Hooked by a Phishing Attack
If you have internet access, you may be under attack – a phishing attack, that is. This high-tech scam involves three components:
- Spoofing is creating a replica of an existing website.
- Spamming is unsolicited or junk email.
- Phishing is the act of using spoofing and spamming to lure unsuspecting victims, hoping to deceive you into disclosing your Social Security number, credit card and checking account numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following tips to help you avoid getting hooked:
- If you get a pop-up or email message requesting personal or financial information, don’t reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies won’t ask for this information.
- Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from email messages.
- Never send personal information via email. Look for a closed padlock at the bottom of your browser window, or a URL that begins with https — the “s” stands for secure. However, some phishers forge these security icons.
- Review statements for accuracy as you receive them. If they’re late, call the company to confirm billing address and balance.
- Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. Run a firewall, particularly if you have a broadband connection. Take advantage of free software patches.
Identity Theft: You Have a Lot to Lose
Armed with little more than the name, address, birthdate, and Social Security number of a completely unknowing person, thieves are illegally obtaining credit cards and access to checking accounts. Others use their newfound identities to apply for employment, an auto loan, or a driver’s license or even to commit a serious crime. Worse, that unknowing person might be you.
Consumer advocacy groups, such as the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, are receiving an increasing number of requests for help from victims of a crime that most law enforcement officials call identity theft.
For victims, the nightmare might begin when someone steals a wallet or check. Or when someone pilfers financial or other records with identifying information from a trash can. Or it might occur when the perpetrator legally obtains credit bureau records while working for a credit grantor (a financial institution, auto dealer, insurance company).
The lengthy process that victims endure to untangle the web of fraud is draining both financially and psychologically.
So, what have you got to lose?
- Access to credit. A bad credit rating can virtually prohibit you from getting a credit card or any type of loan.
- Use of your checking account funds. You’re likely to show up as a bad risk on retailers’ check verification systems.
- Employment opportunities. A damaged credit report or driving record could take you out of the job market.
- Work time. With passage of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, victims finally have a federal law that gives them the right to file police reports and recoup damages. But it takes time to be persistent and assertive in clearing their names.
- Money. Costs can mount when you retain the services of legal counsel.
Report any suspected identity theft to 802 Credit Union as soon as you realize it has occurred. And visit the Federal Trade Commission identity theft website (ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/) to view a copy of its publication, “Identity Theft — A Recovery Plan.”