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Fraud and scam season is here again

By Jerry Shelby

For the Salisbury Post

The chances of being taken advantage of and falling prey to a scam increases during the holiday season, insurance enrollment periods and the year end tax season. Fraud occurs when the individual or organization deliberately deceives others in order to gain a benefit. They may claim to be a person, business, or organization that they are not or provide a service they can’t or won’t complete.

Scammers want your personal information to benefit themselves. Medicare and other annual enrollment periods are prime time for scams. Scammers pose as employees of Medicare, Social Security or other government agencies, organizations, churches or friend-of-a- friend offering to help you. Scammers ask to verify or update your personal information or offer free supplies, reduced prices or services better or cheaper than Medicare or other insurance.

Remember, Medicare will never call you or knock on your door.

Advertisements for miracle cures, products or gadgets are targeted at senior citizens. Ask for the research supporting the product and then share it with your doctor. They may say they are conducting a healthcare insurance company survey and need more information from you.

Another way to get your personal information is to look in your mailbox or trash can. They take the mail and Google it and look at Facebook and other Internet websites where you provided information and then build a database about you.

The scammer may use phishing to contact you by email to say your personal information was stolen at your bank or a business where you shop. Remember Bank of America and Target? The scammer wants to verify your account information, Social Security number and birthday. They may claim to be your credit card company wanting to verify a purchase and needing your credit card account number to make sure they are talking to the right person.

Don’t respond to messages that ask for your personal financial information, whether the message comes from email, a phone call, a text message or an ad. Don’t click on links in the message or call phone numbers that are left on your answering machine.

This time of year scammers will post bogus job offers to make extra Christmas money and then get your personal information via a fraudulent job application.

Scammers may invite you to a free lunch for the latest and greatest investment, but first you need to fill out an application. They have the information to pose as you to apply for credit and gift cards for themselves. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, and it is guaranteed high return, it is a scam. Be aware that the people making the testimony work for the company, or they may be fraudulently using a celebrity name.

Major natural disasters and a major crises reported in the news increase your email, regular mail and telephone calls requesting donations for the victims of the disaster.

Solicitations for Christmas funds and empty stocking funds are common. Remember to ask for references, addresses and phone numbers for the fund. Then check with the N.C. Department of Justice. Do not pay with a credit card.

Tech support scams claim to be from Microsoft or Apple, telling you a virus got into their system and they need to install an update on your computer. They give you a website to get the update and now they have your computer and personal information, or they install a virus and want to charge you $99 or more to repair your computer.

Dating websites, travel sweepstakes, you won the lottery scams and requests to make yearend  charity donations as a tax deduction are common.

Child identity theft is getting more popular as more teenagers are using chat rooms and are befriended and unaware they are being phished into giving personal information. They may be offered a prize or a chance to win a new iPhone or iPad. The scammers offer a free app download and then get your personal information to make purchases in your name. Parents, share safety tips with your child.

Never give personal information to a telemarketer.

Later this year,  a “SCAM JAM” will be held at the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center. State and local agencies will present important information to help you avoid being a victim and scammed, the most common scams, what to do if scammed, where to report it, and how to correct it. An announcement will be made later in the newspaper when the final details are completed. Don’t be a victim. Attend the SCAM JAM.

Jerry Shelby of Salisbury is an advocate for senior citizens.

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