A Call to Protect Yourself

6 tips to help seniors avoid phone scams

Published online: Oct 05, 2021 Articles, East Idaho Health Yvonne Mortensen
Viewed 1073 time(s)

The FBI estimates that seniors lose over $3 billion to fraud every year. Many of these frauds are committed over the phone. What can you do to keep yourself safe?

First, be aware of common scam trends like the following:

Medicare: The thief asks for your personal information to send you a new Medicare card.

Grandchild Scam: Someone calls claiming to be your grandchild in trouble. They ask for money and want you to keep it a secret.

Government Agencies: You are threatened that your social security benefits will be canceled. 

You can see how these calls are designed to create an emotional response. When we feel a sense of crisis, we may respond without thinking. That is how criminals take money from intelligent people.

The following tips can help you protect yourself from phone fraud:

1. Make sure your phone’s voicemail is set up and maintained. 

2. Do not answer the phone unless you know who it is. Any legitimate caller will leave a voicemail.

3. Do not believe the Caller ID. Phone numbers can be spoofed, which means your caller ID will display a local number no matter where the call comes from. 

4. If you notice yourself having an emotional response to a call, slow down and take a breath. Ask yourself what you really know about the caller. Do not provide or confirm personal information! 

5. Hang up. Do not call any number the potential scammer gave you. If you have a concern, locate a phone number for the caller, whether that is Social Security, Medicare, or your grandchild. Call them yourself and verify what is happening.

6. Be skeptical. No bills are paid using gift cards. Contests do not require the prize-winner to provide bank information. Government agencies will contact you by mail.

If you suspect you have been the victim of fraud, act quickly. Do not be paralyzed by embarrassment. If you gave your social security number, contact ssa.gov. If the call was Medicare related, you can get help by calling Senior Medicare Patrol of Eastern Idaho at 208-522-5391, or 1-800-Medicare. If your credit card was compromised, contact the issuing bank. If you bought gift cards and gave the numbers, report it to the gift card issuer (e.g., Amazon), and report the incident to the police.

Fraudulent phone calls come to everyone. Be prepared in advance to protect yourself, and you will not become a victim. Share this information with others so they can be protected as well. 

Yvonne Mortensen is a Senior Medicare Patrol Outreach Specialist. Eastern Idaho Senior Medicare Patrol is administered by the Area Agency on Aging. All services are free of charge and confidential. 

Click here to read the October issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.


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