‘Do Your Homework’: Panel of Experts Teach Seniors About Popular Scams


“Older Americans are losing $ 2.9 billion a year due to an ever-growing array of financial abuse schemes and scams,” said U.S. Representative Scott Peters (D-La Jolla) during a webinar he hosted on May 25 to educate seniors about these scams. linked to COVID-19.

He said that “the health and financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have also allowed crooks to take advantage of Americans through robocalls. [automated calls using a computerized dialer and prerecorded messages] and SMS ”which target the elderly, prey to“ their lack of knowledge or their fear ”.

To combat this exploitation, three experts shared information on identifying scams and protecting personal information.

Sally Kim Westlake of the California Department of Insurance, a state agency that regulates all lines of insurance in the market, said that “scammers are offering COVID-19 health insurance coverages” that falsely promise coverage and full treatment at low cost, but they “about the scam to steal your money and identity saying your current health insurance doesn’t cover [coronavirus] treatments on your policy. “

Another scam is to call the elderly and tell them that a loved one is sick in the hospital. [and] needs a ventilator urgently, their health insurance has been canceled due to non-payment of premiums, ”she said.

Scammers could then say that if the elderly “make the premium payments over the phone now,” the policy will be reinstated and the loved one will receive the necessary medical attention, Westlake said.

Other scams involve calls offering free COVID-19 tests, drugs and vaccines if recipients confirm their Medicare and Social Security numbers.

Westlake said the crooks then used this information to “make false statements about your health insurance policies.”

Sally Kim Westlake cautioned senior citizens, often victims of scams, not to disclose information to unsolicited callers.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Westlake said unsolicited calls, texts and emails asking for personal information are scams, and asked webinar attendees to repeat the phrase “I do not disclose any information to unsolicited callers” whenever they receive such requests.

“Then hang up,” Westlake said. “You don’t have to be polite; be stingy with your personal information and update your passwords regularly. “

Westlake said the state offers a website (https://seniors.insurance.ca.gov/) “to provide seniors, their families and caregivers with the information they need to connect to services. and useful resources ”, avoid fraud and report abuse.

Seniors are also “a very important target of unlicensed contractors,” said Kevin Durawa of the California Contractors State License Board. Seniors are “often very confident” which makes them a vulnerable group to contract scams.

Those who run a scam “will try to manipulate the elderly [by] make connections, ”he said, for example, mentioning that a neighbor’s child attends the same school as the elder’s grandchild.

Other common tactics, he said, include door-to-door sales and high pressure strategies.

An example of this, said Durawa, is someone knocking on the door “who has a van full of fertilizer and says, ‘Hey, I was doing your neighbor’s lawn in the area, and I had to. additional material. What if I make your lawn for $ 800? I can do it now, it’s a great deal. ”

He said that “the pressure on you to make a decision right away… is a high pressure tactic. You don’t know if this contractor is licensed ”or if the materials and workmanship will be of high quality.

“They can just take your money and leave the job unfinished and you have a big mess to clean up,” he said.

Another common scam is the fear tactic, said Durawa. “You’re knocked on the door and an unlicensed contractor wants to come in and give you a free home inspection. [It] Seems like a good deal to me. “

The senior is then notified that there are issues with the roof, plumbing or other components, he said.

“Be careful inviting someone into your house or answering the door,” Durawa said, adding that if a resident is unsure who someone is at the door, “don’t don’t even open the door; ask them to leave their information on the doorstep, so you can check it later. “

When checking the information, he said, “Check the contract or the license number … and if they don’t have any hardware, chances are they won’t be authorized.”

He said that “some of the biggest scams we see … involve unlicensed contractors asking for an unusually high down payment,” adding that state law requires a down payment for contract work “not to exceed 10%. or $ 1,000, regardless of the amount. ”

Those who believe they have been the victim of a scam can file a complaint with the CSLB by calling (800) 321-2752 or sending an email [email protected].

Jackie Wiley of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, which licenses and regulates state financial institutions, products, and professionals, gave this advice to seniors to protect themselves from financial scams: ” Do your homework”.

Wiley said con artists often prey on older people because they are more often at home and more likely to answer the phone.

Common scams involve seniors being told that the Internal Revenue Service is calling to collect unpaid taxes, or that a representative from the Social Security Administration calls to make sure their Social Security number has not been Fly.

Either way, Wiley said, agencies will never call to request sensitive information.

“Remember you didn’t call them,” she said. “These people are calling you; it is a red flag.

“I know these calls can be intimidating and scary, but don’t jump in to do something too fast,” Wiley said.

To protect financial information, Wiley advised seniors to “trust your gut. … Never give out your personal information unless you have initiated the contact and… always go to the source yourself. “

For more information on fraud protection, call (866) 275-2677. â—†

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