33 Tips for Avoiding Scams and Swindles

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Far too many older adults fall prey to scammers who are looking to make a quick buck. Here are 33 tips that can help you steer clear of them and stay safe.

Remember: Being knowledgeable about scams is not always enough to protect you. Take the time to regularly review bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and credit reports to monitor for signs of fraud and identity theft. Need help with monitoring? Use a trusted advocate.

Health Insurance Fraud

  1. Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
  2. Never give blanket permission to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
  3. Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.
  4. Carefully review your insurer’s explanation of benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions.
  5. Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services or medical equipment are free.
  6. Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services.
  7. Keep accurate records of all health care appointments.
  8. Know if your physician ordered equipment for you.
  9. For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission. To report a suspected health insurance scam, call: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or submit a complaint online.

Medicare Scams

  1. Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it.
  2. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
  3. Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed.
  4. For more information, visit here. Report suspicious activities to: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or your local Senior Medicare Patrol.

Telemarketing Scams

  1. Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company.
  2. Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
  3. Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business over the phone.
  4. Always take your time in making a decision.
  5. For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission online. To report a suspected phone scam, call: 1-888-382-1222 or report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.

Home Repair or Contractor Fraud

  1. Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions.
  2. Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing.
  3. Make sure you understand all contract cancellation and refund terms.
  4. As a general rule, take control of all of your transactions as a consumer.
  5. Do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.
  6. For more information, visit the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud online. You can also report a problem to the Federal Trade Commission.

Loan Modification/Foreclosure Scams

  1. Do not trust an agency/person that guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or get your loan modified.
  2. HUD-approved counseling agencies will only promise they will try their best to help you and will not make any guarantees.
  3. Never send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender. Contact your mortgage lender when you have trouble making your monthly payment.
  4. Always personally review and complete all paperwork affecting your loan.
  5. For more information, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Department. To report a scam, call: 1-888-995-4673 or file a complaint with the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network.

Retirement Scams

  1. Be skeptical of “free lunch” seminar topics on early retirement. Use the FINRA BrokerCheck and Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website to check the company’s/speaker’s credentials before attending. If they are registered brokers/advisors, check out any red flags raised by employment or discipline history.
  2. Be informed of the unintended consequences of early retirement. Consult a local attorney about unintended consequences, especially when you are in debt or owe child support.
  3. Ask questions and check out the answers through your own independent search. Make sure you understand the investment, the risk associated, and the company’s history.
  4. Do not solely rely on a professional to manage your retirement account. Monitor the activity, and request and review your statements regularly.
  5. To report a retirement investment scam, contact the Securities and Exchange Commission. Call: 1-800-732-0330 or submit a complaint online. For a suspected abusive transaction involving a retirement plan, report it to the Internal Revenue Service by calling: 1-410-962-9547.