Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, American lives have seismically shifted. Boomers and seniors are adopting digital media in record numbers to sustain connections virtually with their family and friends. A by-product of COVID-19 is narrowing the digital divide between generations amidst social media and the internet of things (IoT). More internet interaction, however, means more exposure to scams and fraud. Trusted websites that educate and protect seniors with important information about scams are part of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) website and mission.
There are specific CDI sections that target seniors with informative tips for protecting themselves in an increasingly difficult time when changing laws, and increased choices and threats of scams make decisions about insurance all the more difficult. Ricardo Lara is the current insurance commissioner for California as part of the state legislature responsible for regulating the insurance industry and has approved a list of the Top 10 Safety Tips for seniors to protect themselves from fraud and financial abuse. While the list is not exhaustive, it is a good beginning and a reminder to be constantly vigilant and observant.
- Do not ever give out your financial information like a bank account, credit card, Medicare, or social security numbers to an individual you do not know.
- There is no such thing as a Medicare or Social Security house call or cold call for beneficiaries. These federal government agencies will contact you via US Postal mail. If someone calls and states they are from Medicare or the Social Security Administration, hang up the phone. Do not listen or give them information. Hang up the phone right away.
- A common tactic of scammers is sales pressure, so do not be pressured or bullied into buying anything immediately because the offer will “expire” if you don’t act now. If you find yourself in a conversation with this type of scam artist, call someone for assistance or, better yet, hang up the phone. No one can force you to accept an offer. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Before you make important financial decisions be sure to connect with a known, trusted family member or professional organization, ensuring you understand fully the purpose and effect of the product you intend to purchase.
- If you choose to make an informed purchase, be certain to get everything in writing, and require copies of all documentation. Keep these records electronically and also print out a copy for your paper files.
- Wiring people or organizations money is a very risky business. It is not advisable to wire money to anyone.
- Your personal information should be ruthlessly guarded and protected. Never share your data, such as your address or phone number on social networking sites, including Facebook.
- Do not ever let strangers into your home unless you have a trusted family member or friend present. Do not open your door if you are not expecting someone you know as they can burst in and overpower you. The only exception to this rule is if you call 911 for emergency responders or the fire or police departments.
- If you use email, delete all messages that ask you to verify account information. Or better yet, report it to your email provider. Credit card companies, Paypal, banks, and other financial institutions will not ask you for this information in an email.
- If you suspect there is something wrong, or if you or your loved one is being abused, immediately contact local law enforcement agencies to file a report about your suspicions.
While it is impossible to protect yourself from all contact with scammers, it IS possible to change how you respond to their tactics. Education is key and also empowering. You do not have to answer a phone call if you do not know the caller. You do not have to click on an unknown email. You do not have to answer your front door if you are not expecting someone you know. The more you visit trusted websites like the California Department of Insurance with senior-specific data about the most currents scams, the more prepared and automatic your protective response will be if a scammer catches you off guard.