Report Scams to the National Elder Fraud Hotline

With more and more older people becoming targets of scammers, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime instituted the National Elder Abuse Fraud Hotline for people to report fraud against anyone age 60 or older.

A 2020 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report says the most money lost in scams by older adults in 2019 were romance scams. Older adults reported aggregate losses of nearly $84 million on romance scams in 2019.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime website, many are too embarrassed or afraid to report the crimes, so many go unreported and victims suffer alone.

The toll-free number of the National Elder Fraud Hotline is 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311.

Professional staff members trained to handle scams and abuse targeting older people are available every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time. With kindness and understanding, they assist victims in filing official local and state reports and help victims make official reports to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the FTC.

Callers can remain anonymous and friends, family and care-givers may call the hotline if fraud is suspected. Translation services are also available.

Keely Frank, a case management shift supervisor for the Virginia-based hotline, says reporting fraud as soon as possible is key to victims recovering their losses. In addition to the hotline, Frank says, victims should also report crimes to the local police, their financial institutions, state attorneys general and, in the case of home contractors, state licensing boards.

Reporting crimes to the proper authorities will help others avoid becoming victims.

Don’t Fall Prey to a Holiday Toy Scam

Scammers famously exploit high-stress times, and the pre-holidays shopping frenzy is no exception. That’s why the BBB is warning of an uptick in holiday toy scams which can be difficult to spot.

Here’s what you need to know about these scams.

How the scam plays out

Every year, there are a few must-have toys on most kids’ wish lists. These choice picks become the hottest-selling items and are plucked off shelves in a wink. Unfortunately for anyone who didn’t shop early enough, these toys soon become impossible to find. The parents search desperately, but to no avail.

Here’s where the scammer steps in. Armed with a bogus website and some crafty online tracking, the scammer targets the vulnerable shopper with ads and online messages to draw the shopper to the scammer’s site. On the authentic-looking site, the shopper finally finds what they seek — the sought-after toy! Often, the toy is also deeply discounted. The purchase is completed within minutes.

Unfortunately, though, the scammer will send a cheap knockoff that doesn’t work or quickly breaks. When contacted for a refund, the scammer refuses to provide one or offers only to refund a small percentage of the purchase price. Sometimes, they’ll also charge an exorbitant amount of money for shipping it back to the company, almost making the small refund not worthwhile.

Red flags

Here’s how to spot these scams:

  • The seller has a large supply of toys that are in high demand.
  • The website is not secure.
  • The seller is offering a steep discount due to a “flash sale” or “last-minute” deal.
  • The seller’s website is full of spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Stay safe

Keep yourself safe when shopping online with these tips:

  • Research before you buy. Avoid purchasing an expensive item from a company you’ve never heard of before without doing some digging.
  • Look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” on the URL before buying anything.
  • Review item return policies before making a purchase.
  • Pay with credit for purchase protection power.
  • Keep your security software up to date.
  • Hang on to any purchase order confirmations.
  • Don’t trust links in unsolicited emails. Scammers will often impersonate reputable websites in order to gain access to your account information. Go to a company website directly when looking for an item.
  • If you believe you’ve been targeted by a holiday toy scam, end all contact with the seller immediately. Alert the BBB and let your friends know about the circulating scam as well.

Shop safely this holiday season!

How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Scams

Here at Olean Area Federal Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness. It’s important to note that the following information does not cover all types of scams or financial security threats in existence, and that these threats are constantly changing and evolving.

To help keep you safe, we’ve made this guide about how to recognize and protect yourself from scams that are common today.

Five ways to spot a scammer

1. They ask for detailed information before agreeing to process an application.

2. They insist on a specific method of payment.

3. They send a check for an inflated amount to a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to mail them the extra money. Of course, the original check will not clear.

4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents.

5. You’re pressured to act now.

Who are the targets?

Here are some of the most common targets of scams:

  • The unemployed. If you’re job-hunting, don’t respond to emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied to have.
  • The aging. Older people often spend lots of time online. They can also be less aware of the dangers lurking there.
  • Children. Children will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity.

What do scams look like?

These are some of the most common scams:

  • Cyberhacking. Hackers gain remote access to your computer-and personal information.
  • Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information, which they use to hack your accounts or steal your identity.
  • Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase an item in a store and then report back on the experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
  • Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
  • Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover or unknown relative will con you into sending them money and gifts or sharing personal information.
  • Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to victims with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

1. Never share personal or financial information with someone you don’t know or that you didn’t initiate contact with.

2. Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you do, don’t click on any links in them.

3. Never send money to an unknown party.

4. Protect your devices by using the most current operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.

5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.

6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams. You can sign up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.

7. Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.

8. If you have elderly parents, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.

9. If a government agency or a company calls and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own.

10. Never accept a job or pay for a purchase or service without researching the company involved.

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