Scams have always been prevalent. Unfortunately, we are faced with individuals taking advantage of people and their possessions. We have even written about them before. During our COVID-19 pandemic, scams have been running rampant, especially among older adults. Here is some updated information since our last Scams and Fraud blog.
What is a scam? A scam is a deceptive scheme or trick used to cheat someone out of something, usually money. Scams are often perpetrated by mail, phone, or email. Those performing the scams may be trying to steal credit card or bank account numbers, social security and Medicare numbers, and one time or recurring payments.
Why are we seeing a recent increase in fraud? Scams seem to be on the rise this year for several reasons. Unfortunately, more people are desperate, out of work, stuck at home and looking for easy ways to make money. Additionally, seniors are also stuck at home and isolated from family and friends. This makes them more susceptible to the person on the phone offering assistance. Isolated seniors might be spending more time on their computers and falling prey to fake emails and links on social media.
What scams are we seeing now? The Client Advocates of My Personal Bookkeeper have helped to remedy or prevent many scams over the last nine months. Here are some examples.
1. One client received mail stating that she could increase the amount of her social security benefit for a small fee. She completed the form with her social security and credit card numbers and had it ready to review and mail when her Client Advocate arrived for their appointment. The Client Advocate researched the name of the organization and found many complaints of identity theft against them.
2. Fraudulent unemployment claims are the newest scam and are quite prevalent. A client received a claim for her late husband who passed away more than two years ago! An individual must call the Illinois Department of Employment Security and report that the claim is fraudulent. There is a long process to follow and it is best to notify the employer too. This scam may result in identity theft so bank accounts should be monitored, and the individual should check with all three credit bureaus and possibly set up alerts or even lock down their credit.
3. Third-party electric companies advertise great savings over ComEd. One of our clients kept receiving calls from these companies who offered low rates. The client would sign up over the phone, providing billing information. The low rates would increase drastically after a few months and the client did not realize it until another company called and this happened yet again. When MPB became involved and began reviewing bills and statements this was rectified and the client is now sticking with ComEd.
What can you do to prevent falling prey to scam artists and identity thieves?
- Do not share personal information such as date of birth, social security/Medicare number, credit card, or bank account with any unsolicited caller, text, or email.
- Research companies online or by asking others you know to make sure they are legitimate and have good reviews. If someone calls to solicit you, write down the name of the company, the caller, and the phone number and tell them you will call them after doing your research.
- Speak with trusted family members and professionals before making decisions. If you think you have fallen for a scam, tell one of these trusted individuals immediately. There is no shame in it, it can happen to anyone. The most important thing is to report it and rectify it right away.
My Personal Bookkeeper’s Client Advocates regularly review billing invoices and bank statements looking for erroneous charges or charges that seem unreasonably high. They also assist clients with reviewing mail to help decipher junk from necessary mail. For more information on our services, go to www.mypersonalbookkeeper.com or call 847-972-6822.