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Protect Yourself from These Common Scams

Posted by David Ghiorso, CPA, November 22, 2016

Every year, con artists target hundreds of thousands of people aged 65 and over. And at this time of year, thieves are desperate to make a little extra cash. Learn the signs of the most common scams, listed below, and remember that you can always consult a family member or financial professional if something seems amiss about a situation.

Distraction techniques. Someone, supposedly representing a utility company (they might even be wearing a uniform), knocks on your door. They ask to check on something in your backyard or even inside of your house. While your back is turned, they snatch jewelry or other valuable items. If they are working with a partner, larger items might be going out one door while you’re distracted in another part of the house.

If anyone approaches you this way, ask to see further proof of their employment, or call the company to verify the situation before letting them into your home.

Fake computer techs. A caller, pretending to be employed by Microsoft, Apple, or some other large tech company, calls to inform you of a problem on your computer. They might ask for sensitive account login information, or even a credit card number. These solicitations can also arrive via email.

Ignore these calls or emails, because these companies won’t reach out to you in this way.

IRS scams. An “IRS agent” calls to tell you that there is a problem with your tax return. You could face fines, penalties, arrest or even deportation. The caller offers to help you resolve the problem immediately, and escape punishment, if you can pay the balance of what you “owe” today.

The IRS will never contact you by phone to demand payment. If there is a problem with your tax return, they will send you a letter. Hang up immediately and report the call.

Lottery scams. The voice on the other end of the line congratulates you on your lottery win. But in order to claim your prize, you must pay a processing fee, which you can wire directly to them.

You can’t win a lottery you never entered, and if you did win, you wouldn’t be notified by phone. Ignore these calls, no matter how tempting they might be!

Grandchild in trouble. You answer the phone, and someone addresses you by “Grandma” or “Grandpa”. This person is crying, and needs money to get out of an emergency.

It’s highly unlikely that this situation would ever happen. But you could always hang up and call another member of the family, if you’re worried the story is true. Never send money to a troubled grandchild unless you have spoken with their parents first.

These are just some of the most popular scams that might target you. When in doubt, always remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. And if there is a problem with your tax return, computer security, a relative, or some other area of your life, you’re unlikely to hear about it via a strange email or phone call. Never give out personal information, such as your bank account details, unless you are absolutely certain that you are not being targeted by a scammer.

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