Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County's 
 Senior Scam Alert
July 2018

Meet Legal Aid Pro Bono Senior Advocates Attorney 
Jay White

Part of Jay's work here at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County is to make sure you are aware of scams out there, so you can protect yourself and help spread the word. Many scam reports are provided by the Federal Trade commission (FTC) and other Government agencies. The FTC is considered by many as a " Consumers" Watchdog"

Recently reported scams are summarized in this issue. If a senior you know needs legal advice or counsel about a scam, please don't hesitate to call Legal Aid at (650)558-0915. 

Pay Me With a Gift Card
Has someone asked you to pay them with a gift card? Scammers love gift cards - it's one of their favorite ways to steal your money. Using these cards is like giving cash - and it's nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported receiving an increased number of calls about this scam. 

Scammers are good at convincing people there is an emergency. A caller or e-mailer may claim to be with the IRS, tech support, or a tell you that a so-called family member is in need. If you receive a call like this, the caller will likely demand the gift card numbers and your Personal Identification Number. Don't provide any personal information. If you provide that information your money will be gone. 

Scammers seem helpful. They may suggest you visit Walmart, Target or CVS to buy gift cards. 

Anyone who demands payment by gift card is almost certainly a scammer.  Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you've bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card that their card was used in a scam. The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research. If you act quickly, they might be able to recover your money. But - either way - it's important the card issuer know what happened to you.  And then please tell the FTC at  about your loss. Your report could help others avoid being scammed.

Medicare Card Scam UPDATE
"Your new Medicare card is on the way!". If someone calls and says you need to give them your personal information or money to receive your new card, don't do it - hang up! It's a scam. 

Medicare will never call uninvited and ask for personal information, nor ask for money. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported an uptick in phony Medicare Card scam calls. 

If you haven't received your new Medicare card yet, don't worry.  You might receive your card at a different time than friends or neighbors in your area. In the meantime, continue using your current Medicare card until your new one arrives. After it arrives destroy your old Medicare card.

Carry your new Medicare card with you. Your doctors and health care providers may ask for your new Medicare card when you need care.

Keep your Medicare Advantage Plan card with you too. If you're in a Medicare Advantage Plan, like an HMO or PPO, keep using your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card whenever you need care. However, you should also carry your new Medicare card - you may be asked to show it.  If you also have a Medicare drug plan card, keep that, too!

Your new Medicare card looks a little different, but your Medicare coverage and benefits are still the same. 

Visit to learn more about your new Medicare card. 

Response to Tragedies - Fake  Charities
Natural disasters and weather emergencies are in the news. Whether it's the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala or the wildfires in Colorado, it's heartbreaking to see people lose their homes and businesses to the ongoing devastation. It's despicable when scammers exploit these tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity. 

If you're looking for a way to help, the FTC urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams. Do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as you wish.

Consider these tips:
  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with disasters help.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Designate the specific disaster you wish to benefit, so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Don't assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will likely show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediately shown.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials. If the charity should be registered, but is not, consider donating through a different charity.

Top 10 Tips for Guarding 
Against Scams
The Federal Trade Commission offers tips for guarding against scammers.
  1. Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don't send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request - whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  
  2. Do online searches before giving a caller any information or money. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like "review," "complaint" or "scam." Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like "IRS call." You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
  3. Don't believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren't always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
  4. Don't pay up front on a promise by someone to provide something in return.  Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They may even say you've won a prize, but first you have send money to pay taxes or fees. Don't do it. If you do, they will take the money and disappear. 
  5. Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don't. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it's nearly impossible to get your money back. That's also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla, and for gift cards. Government offices and honest companies won't require you to use these payment methods. 
  6. Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert - or just tell a friend.
  7. Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don't press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
  8. Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you or take money from your bank account every month until you cancel in writing. That will take time and can run up your bill.  Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don't recognize.
  9. If you receive a large check with a statement you have won the lottery or publisher's sweepstakes don't deposit it.You will likely be directed to deposit the check a check in your account and wire money back money from your account to pay "taxes or administrative expenses".  Don't do it. By law, banks must make funds deposited in your account to be available promptly. But discovering that a check is fake may take several days or weeks. If a check from a scammer turns out to be a fake, you're responsible for repaying the bank any of the money withdrawn based on the fake check.
  10. To obtain an update on scams you can sign up for free e-mail scam alerts from the FTC at 
If you spot a scam, or if you are a victim of a scam, please report it at Your report can help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.