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TDCI Promotes Older Americans Month, Provides Tips for Scam Prevention

Division of Consumer Affairs Offers Tips for Avoiding Scams, Fraud Aimed at Seniors
Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 09:45am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is proud to join the Administration for Community Living in promoting May as Older Americans Month. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Connect, Create, Contribute,” which encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
  • Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Established in 1963, Older Americans Month aims to recognize and honor older Americans for their contributions to their communities. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities. As part of Older Americans Month, TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs is sharing the following tips to help Tennessee consumers avoid scam and fraud tactics often aimed at seniors:

SUBSCRIPTION SCAMS

Some products are advertised as a free trial offer, but the fine print states that once the trial period is over you must cancel or you will be automatically charged a subscription fee. Often times, consumers don’t realize they’ve agreed to the subscription until they’ve been charged multiple times. To avoid this scam:

  • Find and read the terms and conditions for an offer. If you can’t find them or can’t understand what you’re agreeing to, don’t sign up.
  • Research and check reviews on the company and product being offered before signing up or entering payment.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements monthly to identify any fraudulent charges.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT SCAMS

Scammers claim to be computer technicians associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. They call or send pop-up messages warning of viruses or other computer problems. Consumers are urged to pay for the technician to gain remote access to the device in order to solve this problem.                                                                           

To avoid this typically unneeded and harmful scam:

  • Avoid clicking on any unexpected pop-ups, spam email, or urgent messages about problems with your computer.
  • Computer manufacturers will not include a contact number in an error or warning message and will not call you if there is a problem with your computer.
  • If a consumer falls victim to a technical support scam, a follow-up scam regarding a “tech support refund” is likely to occur. They will ask for your bank account or credit card information to issue a refund, but rather than depositing a refund, they take more money or will make fraudulent charges on the account.

GOVERNMENT IMPOSTER SCAMS

Fraudsters pretend to be from a government agency. They want to gain sensitive information or trick you into sending money or gift cards. Imposters often use ID “spoofing” technology to mask their real number, causing a consumer to think the call is from a legitimate source. Beware these common imposter scams:

  • IRS scam: Scammer may claim the IRS is filing a lawsuit in your name. They urge you to call back immediately to discuss your case.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) scam: Scammer claims your social security number has been suspended and you need to provide your personal information to get the account reactivated.
  • Medicare card scam: Scammer claims you need to pay a fee or verify information to receive a new Medicare card. While new Medicare cards have been issued, the cards are provided automatically and at no cost to consumers.

FAMILY EMERGENCY SCAMS

  • In recent years, scammers have become craftier and may pose as relatives or friends in need of help. They’ll urge you to wire money immediately to help with an emergency—like getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, or needing to leave a foreign country. Their goal is to provide a sense of urgency so that you send money quickly, before realizing it’s a scam. When faced with this situation: Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how pressing the issue appears to be.
  • Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly know.
  • Call the phone number for the family member or friend that you know to be genuine to validate the call.
  • Check the story of the caller with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t wire money—send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.

IF YOU BECOME A VICTIM

Have you fallen victim to a scam or fraud? If so, follow these four steps:

  • Tell your family or caregivers so they can help you and warn your friends.
  • Call your bank or credit card company to change any associated account numbers and passwords.
  • Document the fraud by recording dates and the names of the people and organization with whom you spoke.
  • Report the fraud. Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their website or by calling 877-382-4357. You can also contact TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs through our website or by calling 615-741-4737.

The Division of Consumer Affairs conducts statewide educational presentations to help older Tennesseans identify and avoid scams. For a list of currently scheduled events, click here.

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