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Senior Fraud Awareness

Release Date: December 13, 2016
A message from Susanne Small of the Mahwah Senior Activity Center.

Senior Fraud Awareness

How to Protect Yourself

Don’t do business with someone who just shows up at your door. If you need to hire a contractor or repairman, call the BBB for a list of accredited businesses. Never move forward with work based on a verbal agreement. Insist on a detailed written contract – do not sign until you fully understand the terms. Be certain the company is licensed properly. Make your check out to the business, NOT an individual. Never pay the entire cost of a repair job upfront.
Try not to pay more than a third.

Never give personal or financial information to an unknown caller, and don’t provide such information for unsolicited e-mail/Internet messages.

Check with BBB before dealing with any company or charity that you are not familiar with. Also check with family members, neighbors or friends. 

Don’t yield to high-pressure or emotional sales tactics. Read contracts thoroughly and seek advice from a relative or other advisor if you don’t understand it.

Never pay money to win a prize or enter a sweepstakes, even if you are sent a check and told to make the payment from that check.

Keep careful records of your transactions such as bank or credit card statements. Check them for accuracy and shred documents thoroughly before throwing them away. Thieves can steal a person’s identity from their trash.

Have your Social Security or pension benefit checks direct deposited to reduce the possibility of ID theft. Also be careful not to leave outgoing bill payments in an unsecured mailbox. Take them to the Post Office yourself or have someone do if for you if possible.

Be cautions of companies that “guarantee” to get you a loan modification or stop the foreclosure process and advise you not to contact your lender or housing counselor.

Before making a donation, take time to authenticate charities by checking names and reputations with the BBB.

Never respond to work-at-home offers. Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their income. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. Regardless of the specifics, the victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes.

Be aware of bereavement scams. Scammers will often try to take advantage of the increased vulnerability of senior citizens who have recently lost a loved one, such as a spouse. In one recent example, a mother and daughter team in Ohio would find targets by scouring the obituaries. They would then call the widow or widower and claim that their spouse had outstanding debts that needed to be paid immediately. Victims would then provide a blank check or credit card.