MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - May is Older Americans Month, and this year the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is offering tips to help prevent older adults from becoming victims of COVID-19 scams.
The DA’s office said the Federal Trade Commission is receiving reports of new scams targeting older adults, already a vulnerable population to financial fraud and exploitation. Social isolation plays a key role in the development of fraud and exploitation behavior, as well.
- Medical Scams: The DA’s office says scam artists are preying on older people’s fears by peddling fake tests for the coronavirus to Medicare recipients. The scammers offer tests for coronavirus and “Senior Care Packages” with hand sanitizer or even tout a vaccine, which does not exist. Once a person’s Medicare information is in the hands of fraudsters, it can be used repeatedly to bill for unwanted goods and services.
- Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19. They then demand payment for that treatment.
- Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
- Never give out personal information, such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information, in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.
- Call (don’t just text!) your older loves ones, even your older neighbors just to check in, even if it’s just to say hi.
- Ask how you can help. Ask your older loved ones or neighbors if they need you to pick up items from the grocery store or a prescription. You can also offer to bring their mail to their door or roll the trash bin to the curb. If they previously relied on a transportation service, ask if they need a ride somewhere.
- Teach the technology. If they are not familiar, walk seniors through new devices, tablets, programs, apps and streaming services. Help them Google online resources specifically geared to helping seniors learn technology.
- Encourage virtual socializing. Many individuals and organizations, musicians, artists, have come forward, streaming their performances online. Countless museums offer virtual tours. Churches are streaming their religious services. Fitness classes have even been thrown into the mix.
- Write a letter or create an art project. Care packages and letters do wonders. Small tokens, printed photos and art projects from a grandchild are wonderful gifts for seniors and sources of reassurance that you are thinking about them.
- Most importantly, listen. Try to understand this pandemic from their perspective, and hear their voices tell you what they need.
The DA’s office says, in many ways, this crisis may serve to deepen connections between generations and across communities.