CHICAGO, Nov. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Holiday season is quickly approaching and while many have heard, year after year, of scams to be aware of when out shopping, fraudsters know there are opportunities to steal from the everyday consumer in the months before. Many scams that appear during October and November seem to target older adults, which is why AARP Fraud Watch Network has picked out the biggest threats this season to be aware of.
"There are a lot of things happening during the fall that could be twisted to con older consumers into giving over personal information or money," said AARP Illinois Communications Director, Gerardo Cardenas. "Fraudsters know just what to say to gain your trust, so knowing in advance of specific scams can really help you protect yourself."
Potential scams to be on the lookout for include:
- Medicare Scams: During open enrollment, which runs October 15 through December 7, identity thefts attempt to get your Social Security number by posing as Medicare employees. Most often they'll claim that new cards are being issued, agency records need updating, or they can help with plan enrollment and solicit Medicare numbers (the same thing as Social Security numbers) for "verification." Sometimes they posing as employees seeking payments or pretending you've got a past-due medical bill. Whatever you do, don't believe them or caller ID. Medicare will never call, email, or visit your home unannounced to collect data it already has in its system.
- Cold Weather Capers: Telephone scammers will pose as utility employees and threaten to shut off your service because of unpaid bills. They typically request payment through hard-to-trace prepaid debit cards, but might ask for credit card numbers or even cash to "keep your services on." If you really are overdue on bills, most companies will mail you several notices before terminating service. They never send employees to your home to obtain payments and rarely show up unannounced for service calls.
- Investment Fraud: The final quarter of the year is here, which leads many people attempting to tweak their investment portfolios or search for year-end tax breaks. Common investment scams aimed at older adults may involve oil and gas, precious metals, promissory notes, life settlements, and long-maturity annuities. Remember don't believe words like "guaranteed," "risk-free," "secret," "can't miss," or "limited-time offer."
- Charity Cons: Superstorm Sandy hit in October—and so did the fake charities claiming to be raising money for its victims. With the approaching holidays, it's prime time for scammers to get people to empty their wallets. Be aware of charity scams that often claim to help police and fire personnel, veterans, and sick or needy children. Unless you sought out the charity over phone, never provide payment verbally. If you didn't provide your email to the organization pitching you to donate to their charity, it's likely a scam. If someone comes to your door soliciting ask that they leave behind materials so you can research the organization before donating.
In 2014, AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network to arm Americans with the tools and resources they need to spot and avoid scams and identity theft. But scammers are still out there, making every attempt possible to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money. The public can sign up for free to receive Fraud Watch Network alerts and more at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
SOURCE AARP Illinois