Each week, the ITRC works with Scam Detector to bring you up-to-date information on the scams and breaches that caused the most red flags in the previous week. By arming yourself with information on what kinds of criminal activity identity thieves are up to, you can help prevent further crimes and not be a victim yourself.
#1 – Senior Citizens Medical Coverage Scams
This one gets top honors this week for being absolutely the most heartless scam around. In this scam—which works under a variety of different themes or formats—criminals call senior citizens and claim to be from some kind of medical office, pharmacy, Medicare office, or more. They use any number of concocted stories to get the victim to hand over personal information, bank account numbers, and other information that can lead to identity theft and draining someone’s bank account.
Some of these scams have included references to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” and state that the victim’s medical records and personal information need to be updated with Medicare due to changes caused by the ACA. Others go so far as to state that a payment wasn’t processed correctly, or that a prescription can’t be refilled—that one is particularly scary, especially if you’re being left with the impression that your high blood pressure medication or your insulin won’t be available to you until you supply this information.
Do not be fooled. Never, ever give your personally identifiable information to a caller, even if there is some form of threat that your coverage or your benefits will be affected. Hang up immediately and call the number on the back of your Medicare card if you need to validate any claims. You can also check with your doctor’s office or pharmacy and let them know you may have been targeted by an identity thief, and that you need to verify your eligibility.
#2 – Professional Recognition Awards
Thanks to the abundance of social media sites that help us stay connected to other professionals in our day-to-day careers, there’s no shortage of information out there on working citizens. That’s why scammers are able to use sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find out what you do for a living, where you work, and how you’re employed. From there, it’s just a matter of contacting you via phone, letter, or email and letting you know that your outstanding contributions to your chosen field have prompted a society of some kind to honor you with an award, and extend membership in their organization.
This scam works because it’s just so believable. If you’ve worked hard at your job and have already earned some recognition for your work, it’s logical that an organization may recognize your efforts. The scammer informs you that your honor includes a large cash prize, but not so large as to be completely unbelievable, as well as tickets to an awards ceremony at a top destination for this kind of professional event.
Even without a high pressure sales pitch or some requirement to join, you’re so excited to be recognized for your hard work that when the caller offers you membership in the organization for a much smaller fee than this supposed award, you happily sign up. Only there’s no organization, no ceremony, and there’s certainly no award. It’s a scam, and they just helped themselves to your credit card information and the membership fee you agreed to.
If anyone reaches out to you to tell you that you’ve won something that you never signed up for, it’s not real. If you’re a winner, especially of some kind of cash prize, you would know about it long before your name was chosen. You’d certainly already have joined a professional organization if they were in the habit of recognizing and rewarding people in your career field. Don’t be fooled, and don’t be ripped off.
#3 – The Ringtone Scam
This scam is particularly scary because you might actually get the product they’re offering you. Once you receive the item you paid for, it’s easy to forget about it and not watch out for what happens next.
Usually through a text message sent to your phone, you receive an offer for a new ringtone. It’s typically one based on a popular chart-topping song or an important event. Once you enter your credit card number for the ringtone (some versions of this scam have sent victims a 1-800 number to call to get their ringtones), you might actually get to download the ringtone and enjoy it.
The problem is the terms of service: once you download the ringtone, you just “agreed” to their monthly membership charge. If you don’t watch your credit card statements carefully, you could spend months paying this fee without ever realizing it.
Remember to only shop for downloads for your phones, tablets, or other devices through reputable companies associated with the major device manufacturers. Never give your credit card number to someone who reaches out to you and sells you something you didn’t even know you wanted. If they had to contact you, you might not want what they’re actually selling.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, you can check out the Scam Detector website at scam-detector.com, or take a look at the Identity Theft Resource Center’s weekly update. Be sure to share this information with your friends and family so that others can be informed and protected.