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.
Health Insurance Fraud
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
- Never give blanket permission to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
- Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.
- Carefully review your insurer’s explanation of benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions.
- Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services or medical equipment are free.
- Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services.
- Keep accurate records of all health care appointments.
- Know if your physician ordered equipment for you.
- 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.
- Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it.
- Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
- Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed.
- For more information, visit: STOP Medicare Fraud. Report suspicious activities to: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or your local Senior Medicare Patrol.
- Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company.
- Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
- Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business over the phone.
- Always take your time in making a decision.
- 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
- 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.
- Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing.
- Make sure you understand all contract cancellation and refund terms.
- As a general rule, take control of all of your transactions as a consumer.
- Do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.
- 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
- Do not trust an agency/person that guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or get your loan modified. HUD-approved counseling agencies will only promise they will try their best to help you and will not make any guarantees.
- Never send a mortgage payment to anyone other than your mortgage lender. Contact your mortgage lender when you have trouble making your monthly payment.
- Always personally review and complete all paperwork affecting your loan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not solely rely on a professional to manage your retirement account. Monitor the activity, and request and review your statements regularly.
- 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.