Fighting Against Fraud in 2022
The recent years have catapulted technology from an option to a requirement. This requirement has thrown us into the deep end, during a time where there is smarter and sneakier fraud, forcing the average person to know how to protect themselves. Whether it be phone calls, emails, letters or links, these attempts are diversified and crafty.
According to the Federal government, 2.8 million Americans lost $5.8 Billion to fraud last year, up 70% over 20201. Age is no longer a bias. Younger Americans are more frequently targets, but those over age 70 tend to lose more2.
In an attempt to provide you a flotation device in these deep waters, there are a few items to be aware of. Coming off of October being Cybersecurity month, some of these may be redundant. For some of you, this could be new waters you are treading in.
Medicare/Social Security Scam
Medicare and Social Security are two of the most important retiree benefits in the US right now. They also can be some of the most confusing programs to navigate. When someone receives a call from Medicare or Social Security, alertness sets in and you want to answer all questions, for fear that these essential programs may become ineffective. And when these programs are your main source of income and health care, any hiccup in their services would certainly be a massive detriment. Please know that Medicare or Social Security will never call you to sell a product3.
You will see a common theme in this article, if anyone is asking for your personal information or asking you to verify it, hang up. Research the phone number of the institution and call it back directly. This will ensure that you are connected with the actual institution and not a fraudster.
As we spend more time online, many also use the internet to branch out socially and romantically. Whether it be on an app, an online group or a chat room (do these still exist?) meeting someone online can even be considered mainstream these days. With all the great stories and personal relationships I know of that started online, there is also a need for caution. If you meet a new friend online and then they start asking for money, please be aware that this could be a scam.
Scammers often use this scam to build close relationships with their victims to instill trust and then they strike. The scammers will ask for money to be sent to them and then typically stop engaging with the victim altogether4. Victims can forgo seeking help in these situations because they fear criticism from others as well as embarrassment for falling for such a scam.
This scam happened to one of our partner’s own mother. She was sitting in her apartment when her phone rang. The person on the other line stated that he was her grandson. He knew intimate details about her, their family and the grandson. He was stranded in a city and had been robbed. He needed $5,000 to get home. The amazing grandmother that she is, didn’t hesitate for a second. She shuffled off to the closest Western Union with a check in hand for the full amount. The Western Union employee stopped her, explained that this may be a scam, and to do some additional research. Luckily, the grandson was home safe and sound with no robbery stories to speak of and she was not out the funds.
We don’t always get an angel of a Western Union employee to help us out. If you receive a call from a loved one or someone claiming that your loved one is in danger, first thing to do is stay calm. The second thing to do is call your loved one or their parent to corroborate the story. Then, if necessary, get local law enforcement involved.
A dear client and friend came in recently and shared her story of getting a phone call from ESL stating that her account had been hacked. With all of the news these days, she wasn’t surprised that she was a victim, but nonetheless panic started to set in. When the rep said “all I need you to do is verify some information and we can take care of this for you” she hesitated. The rep then stated that they could text her a link that she could log in to her account. The link looked just like the ESL portal. Two red flags appear in this story: an unknown link and someone asking for personal information. She did the right thing, said no, hung up, didn’t try to log in and called ESL directly to confirm it was a scam. Although she escaped the scam, she was visibly shaking when her husband got home.
We hear this story too often. Any links or calls you get from unsolicited sources, never share your personal information. Always hang up and call the institution they claim to be from, not the number they provide you.
With holidays coming up around the corner, we enter one of the busiest online shopping times of the year. It is important to remember a few items to keep your information secure:
- WiFi is not all the same – be sure you are using a WiFi that is password protected. If you are unsure, using data versus WiFi is more secure.5
- Not all websites are the same – check the website to ensure that it starts with https
- Beware of your emails – examine your emails to confirm the sender email address is accurate and inspect the links provided
Protect Your Smartphone
Although there are still a few home phones floating around, as well as flip phones within our client base, the majority of us have Smartphones on our person the majority of the time. These minicomputers have turned into a device that holds a multitude of personal information. A few ways to protect your device6:
- Back up your phone periodically
- Update your software and apps
- Activate “find my phone”
- Set a pin on your device
The main takeaway from each of these scenarios is to protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers and fraudsters. Always verify or check where links, phone, calls, and emails are coming from. If you are unsure of its origin or do not believe it to be true, call the institution directly as some of the examples above have shown. Share these tips with family members who may be targeted so you all can stay protected.
As always, we are here to help you sort through information to make the best financial decisions for you and your family.
Advisory services offered through Rise Advisors, LLC (“Rise”), a Registered Investment Adviser. This report is being generated as a courtesy and is for informational purposes only.
- “New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports from Consumers in 2021.” Federal Trade Commission, February 22,2022, accessed on October 28, 2022. Ftc.gov
- Devin Kropp. “4 Common Elder Scams: Help Clients Stay Safe and Fight Back.” Horsesmouth, February 7, 2020, accessed on October 28, 2022. Horsesmouth.com
- See footnote 2
- See footnote 2
- Devin Kropp. “4 Ways to Stay Cybersecure this Holiday Season.”Hoursesmouth. Accessed on October 28, 2022: Horsesmouth.com
- See footnote 5