June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Abuse can take many forms, among them frauds and scams. Below are some scams that target senior citizens:
The IRS Phone Scam – A scammer posing as an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent calls unsuspecting seniors, claims that they owe money and threatens a lawsuit. The IRS will never call to inform you of a pending suit.
Medicare Fraud – Someone may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to provide their personal information, which is used by the scammer to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
Tax Fraud – A criminal files taxes using a stolen Social Security or Employee ID number to collect a victim’s tax return.
Internet Fraud – Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program or an actual virus that may gain access to personal information saved on their computer.
Grandparent Scheme – Scammers pose as the victim’s grandchild and describe a dire situation involving the grandchild with instructions on how and where the grandparent should send money.
Seniors are encouraged to educate themselves on how to avoid scams and fraud. Technology opens up a new avenue for scams, including “typosquatting.”
Typosquatting occurs when scammers trick web surfers into downloading harmful computer viruses and providing personal information. They can also trick vulnerable children into viewing adult content.
These scammers set up web addresses that resemble legitimate addresses but contain a common typo, such as ending a web address with “.cm” instead of “.com.” If a user mistakenly types in the wrong address, they may be directed to a website containing viruses and malware, or a website tht is designed to gather personal data for scammers.
Consumers can help protect themselves from typosquatting scams by taking the following steps:
Always double-check the web address before entering a website to help avoid bogus sites that aim to steal personal information.
Use a search engine. If you are not sure of a certain website address, consider using a search engine like Google or Bing. Search engines, such as Google, have algorithms help point you in the right direction; and
Be wary of links found in social media posts, which can often lead to typosquatters.
Look for red flags in the web address, including:
► Extra text following a “.com,” such as www.example. com-(text);
► A misspelling of the company’s name; or
► Typos in the domain (.com, .gov, .org, etc.), such as the web address ending with “.cm” instead of “.com.”
Spotting fake websites is not always easy. If you realize you have entered one of your passwords on a typosquatter’s site, change your password immediately.
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services consumer protection and information hotline by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) or visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com.