Fraudulent calls have increased. Be careful.
Photo: Archive / Impremedia
In better times we would celebrate the end of the year parties around our grandmothers’ table. Generation after generation of families would share dinner, laugh and party. But this year is different. As we navigate a devastating public health crisis that has devastated New York families, we are taking new steps to keep the people we love safe.
We know that one way we can help protect our elderly loved ones is to celebrate with physical distancing through a phone call or video call. However, we must also make plans to keep our loved ones informed about how to identify and combat fraud during the holidays. Giving our older family members the tools to stay alert will help us ensure that senior fraud does not add to the financial misery that COVID-19 has brought with it.
Start with the general rule that Social Security number, bank account information, or other sensitive personal information should never be shared over the phone. The government will never call for a stimulus check or a tax refund. Nor will it ask you for personal information over the phone.
Let your family know that they should beware of callers asking for immediate decisions or threatening police action. They should also watch out for callers and pressure them not to tell their friends or family about the call. The New York State Department of State Consumer Protection Division has a list of some of the most common types of fraud to keep in mind. Remind your loved ones that if they think a call is suspicious or if they are feeling pressure to provide information or money, they can simply drop the call. Anyone who has a legitimate need to collect your information will have another way of making contact.
It is also important that our loved ones know that they should not feel ashamed if they are victims of fraud. These scammers constantly invent tactics designed to confuse people and have taken advantage of all the uncertainty that this crisis has caused.
Fraudulent calls they have increased during the pandemic, taking advantage of people’s interest in COVID-19 treatments and their need for a stimulus check. That is why it is important to know the basic rules and remember that you can always hang up the call.
Finally, if your family member thinks that someone has tried to scam them, they should ask for help immediately. Please tell him if possible to report the scam to the FTC. This agency collects fraud reports, which can be submitted online to https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/ or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
These are tough times, but together we can ensure that our grandparents, our moms and dads, as well as older generations, can feel they have the tools to stop senior fraud.
I will continue to fight for these efforts in Washington with measures like the Financial Empowerment Law for the Elderly. This project would ensure that older adults and their caregivers have access to crucial information about financial abuse.
This law would standardize and improve the way in which economic abuse of older people is reported, establish a national hotline to guide where and how to report fraud, and provide more resources to combat the economic exploitation of our older adults, including before it happens.
Please take a few moments to share this important information with your older relatives. The peace of mind they will feel will be one of the best gifts you can give this holiday season.
(Kirsten Gillibrand is a US Senator from New York)
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