Volume 2 | Issue 4 | July 2020
#Full Disclosure usually focuses on assisted living issues, but in this issue we depart from that theme. We felt we needed to do an information piece on scams especially since new COVID-scams are on the rise. Even if you know everything about scams, a reminder never hurts. And since we all have to take care of each other, we encourage you to be vigilant not just for yourself, but for the older adult in your life.

Since mid-March, many of us have been under stay-at-home orders to help slow the spread and flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus. All those weeks of isolation have impacted independently-living seniors in adverse ways: fewer social activities, fewer interactions with family and friends, and more reliance on a smaller group of persons helping with groceries, meals, and other dependencies. The more isolated a senior is, the more at risk that person is of becoming a scam victim.

In "Resources Under Your Plate," Rebecca reports on clever, simple and effective tools created by the government, that are free to access, and can be used in a variety of places, to educate seniors about scams. Her second article, "Elder Fraudsters: They Lurk Among Us" offers tips for being smarter than the scammers.

COVID-19 = NEW SCAMS
Chris Murphy, MS-Gerontology
So while we've all been hunkered down, doing our civic duty and trying to stay safe, scammers have seized the opportunity presented by COVID-19's confusion and isolation to create new ways to part seniors from their money.

Contact Tracing Scam: The California Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES) has alerted Californians of people passing themselves off as contact tracers (those people who try to find the source of a disease). And of course, they want your money, your credit card, your bank account, or your social security numbers.

Contact tracers are employed by state and local health departments, they carry ID badges, and they will NEVER ASK for money. Be skeptical. Ask to see the badge. When in doubt call the local health agency to verify that the person is a legit contact tracer. AND never, ever give them your personal information, including social security number, date of birth, or your financial institution. If the person is legitimate, they will totally understand you are doing your due diligence. If they're not, they'll make up some reason to scram. If that happens, call the police.

Speeding up COVID Stimulus Checks : The Federal Trade Commission reports that through mid-July 2020, over 60,000 people have been impacted by COVID-related scams, recording losses of over $74,000,000.

Just know that:
  • Nobody can help you get a stimulus check faster.
  • There are no reliable or safe COVID vaccines yet - so don't be duped by someone who says there is.
  • Debt consolidation scams are everywhere in these financially insecure times. Don't fall for them.
  • Threats to terminate your Netflix subscription. Fake.
  • Offers of free COVID-19 tests are bogus unless they are offered by a bonafide state or county agency.

These are all scams. Don't worry about being impolite. Hang up the phone. Delete the email. Keep your personal information, well - personal. And if you think - despite your best efforts to avoid becoming a victim - that you are, you should immediately report it to:

Your local Police Department

Here's hoping you stay COVID and SCAM-free.
Resources Under Your Plate
Rebecca Ruiz, Research & Data Analyst
Sometimes government websites can be confusing, outdated, and difficult to navigate. But the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website steps up to the monumental task of educating people about all types of financial scams.

The website has resources for both seniors and families as well as for the professional to better their ability to identify financial fraud victims. CFPB offers unique solutions for spreading elder fraud awareness: blogs, articles, guides and . . . placements.

CFPB's placements are available in English and Spanish, and are completely free and available to the public. And there are 14 different placemats with topics like Medicare ID fraud, IRS imposter fraud and romance scams. They also have associated activities like crosswords or word scrambles to keep seniors engaged and aware of the warning signs of scams. Placemats can be ordered from the website, or downloaded and printed by you.

These placemats are a unique and efficient tool to increase overall fraud awareness. They also may slip under the radar of an abusive family member who might not be looking for elder fraud awareness under a meal.
Elder Fraudsters: They Lurk Among Us
Rebecca Ruiz, Research & Data Analyst
As we continue to stay isolated, minimizing our contact with independently living seniors or in an assisted living environment, elder fraud is likely going undetected in the absence of the informal safety net comprised of friends and families members that usually keep a watchful eye on the senior.

The friends-and-family safety net is especially important given that 90% of elder fraudsters are family members or caregivers. It is estimated that 1 in 9 seniors experience some form of elder fraud, and only one case in 44 is prosecuted.

The conditions for seniors that pose greatest risk for elder fraud include being isolated, or having a disability requiring that the elder depend on or trust another. If the senior has reduced decision-making capacity, that makes a senior more of a target.

AARP offers tips to help you recognize and protect yourself and others from elder fraud:
  • Look for misspellings in emails, links and website addresses. If you see -gov, instead of .gov, stay away.

  • During COVID, grandparent scams are increasing. Scammers call asking for money for pretenses like bail, or immigration issues. The 'tell' is they ask you not to mention this to any family member. Your response is to immediately hang up, and call another family member to see if what you were told is true.

  • With caller ID, an easy tip to stay safe is to not answer the phone if you don't recognize the phone number or the caller ID displayed. If it's really someone you know, they will leave a voice mail for you.

  • Be suspicious. If a stranger offers to do a favor for you, take a step back. Get more details. Call a family friend before you accept any free offer.

AARP has a SCAM TRACKING MAP. You can log into the site and see what the common scams are in your area. You can also call their fraud hotline to report a scam or to access help if you fall victim to one.

Stay Safe. Be suspicious. When in doubt call a trusted friend.
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