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

Meet Legal Aid Attorney 
Jay White

Part of my 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. 

Every other month I will be sending you information I have about the latest scams.

If you or a senior you know needs legal advice or counsel about a scam,  please don't hesitate to contact Jay White at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County at (650) 558-0915.
You're a Lucky Winner!
Who wouldn't love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That's what con artists are counting on when they claim to be with the Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.
The scam starts with a call or letter saying you've won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes (or some other similarly named contest). But to collect your prize, they say, you need to send money to pay for fees and taxes. Typically you'll be asked to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, or by getting a reloadable card or gift card. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it's nearly impossible to trace the money - and you'll almost never get it back.
But that's not the only way scammers get your money with this scam. Some will send you a realistic-looking fake check for a large dollar amount in the mail. You are told that, to claim your prize, you need to deposit the check in your bank account. You are told to write a check on your bank account and send some of the money back for made-up expenses. But when the check you deposited bounces - even after it seemed to clear - you may be on the hook for the money you sent to the scammers.
If you think you have won a prize, here are a few things to know:
  • Never give any of your bank account information to someone you don't know. 
  • Never deposit a large unexpected check you received purporting to be from Publishers Clearing House into your bank account.  
  • Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings. 
  • The real Publishers Clearing House says it will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize
If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission or FAX 877-9135.

New Medicare Card Scam
Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin mailing new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. Medicare is removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. Instead, the new cards will have a unique Medicare Number. 
Medicare will mail your card, at no cost, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account or call 1-800-772-1213. Your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.

Be on the lookout for Medicare scams.  Be aware. As the new Medicare cards are mailed, scammers will see this as a great opportunity to mislead you and steal your money. 
Here are some tips offered by the Social Security Administration:
  • Don't pay for your new card. It's yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that's a scam.
  • Don't give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that's a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
  • Guard your new card like you would any other health insurance or credit card. You'll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to get medical services.

If you're a victim of a Medicare card scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or FAX 877-9135.


For more information about changes to your Medicare card visit

Cryptocurrency or Bitcoin Scam
You may have heard about this new kind of currency/way of making a payment. Be on the alert for scammers promoting risky investments in cryptocurrency or Bitcoin, which operate independently of a central bank or administrator and take place on the computer.

What is Cryptocurrency or Bitcoin? 
Oxford Dictionary Definition of Cryptocurrency: "A digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank."
Wikipedia describes Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system. It is a decentralized digital currency that works without a central bank or single administrator. The network is peer-to-peer and transactions can take place between users directly by computer without an intermediary.   
A cryptocurrency is a means of transferring assets or equity by computer.  No visual physical evidence and no bank is involved.  It is not issued by any central authority and it is theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.

The Scams
The US Federal Trade Commission cautions that the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency transactions makes them well-suited for a host of nefarious activities, such as money laundering and tax evasion.  The US Federal Trade Commission offers these suggestions:
  • Be cautious of any solicitations bearing names such as Bitcoin or Blockchain. 
  • Be cautious of solicitations in the nature of a Ponzi scheme that rely on existing investors signing up new ones.
  • Be cautious of anyone promising you very high returns/interest.
  • Be cautious of anyone guaranteeing you that you "can't lose money".
  • Be cautious of anyone who has little verifiable information on your investment.
  • Be cautious of anyone who expresses a sense of urgency to "invest now".
  • Treat anonymous and new exchanges, apps and browser extensions with caution.
For more information on scams affecting consumers,