Fraud Prevention 101
This summer, I hosted a tele townhall and was joined by experts on preventing financial scams and other forms of elder abuse.
If you missed it, you can still listen on our Facebook page, or check out the resources for preventing scams and providing support for both older Michiganders and caretakers below.
These kinds of scams are a growing problem: last year alone, fraudsters managed to scam Americans out of billions of dollars. And unfortunately, Michigan has been particularly hard hit and was ranked 14th in the nation overall for these kinds of crimes. Scams can happen over the phone, through email, text, anywhere online, or even in-person at your door, so I wanted to share some best practices for protecting yourself:
How do I prevent fraudsters from calling me?
Our experts shared that “prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The first step you can take is to NOT answer the phone for unknown numbers. This can help reduce the number of calls you receive. If the voicemail left for you seems like something legitimate, verify that the number calling you is really connected to that organization. For example, if your bank calls you, check to see if they are calling from the number listed on the back of your debit or credit card. If not, it could be fraud. You can also register for the national “do not call” list at www.donotcall.gov. This may help cut down on unwanted calls.
If you do get a call, you can help our state crackdown on robo-calls by submitting a robo-call complaint using this link.
What are some red flags to look for?
If someone calls saying they are from Medicare, the IRS or any government agency it is safe to assume they're lying and hang up. If you're concerned that the request is real, tell them to put whatever information they have in writing.
Go with your gut - if something seems even the slightest bit off, take the time to verify who you are communicating with. You can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 877-765-8388 if you have any questions about a request - they can help tell you if it is legitimate or not.
To learn about scams currently happening in Michigan, check out the AG’s list here, so you can know what to look for.
What are romance scams and how can I prevent them?
Romance scams are when people, often online, take on a false identity and get close to you for access to money or personal financial information. It’s important to be aware and on the lookout for this type of thing if you are talking to people on the internet. You should never give your financial information to anyone who asks for it online.
What are charity scams and how can I prevent them?
Sometimes fraudsters will pretend to call from a charity asking for donations. If you are donating to charity, do your due diligence, and make sure you are giving to the organization you intend to. You can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 877-765-8388 if you have any questions about a request - they can help tell you if it is legitimate or not.
What should I do if I realize I've been scammed?
If you realize that large, unauthorized charges have been made on your credit or debit card, call your bank immediately. If the scammer got a hold of your social security number, go to IdentityTheft.gov to see what steps you should take, including how to monitor your credit. You can freeze your credit report with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You should also file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office with this link.
If you haven’t been scammed, but believe you have been contacted by a scammer, you should still report it to the Attorney General’s office here.
What is the government doing to crack down on fraud?
Last week, Congress was able to take action and pass the Elder Abuse Protection Act, which will make the Elder Justice Initiative a permanent office within the Department of Justice. The Elder Justice Initiative was created just last year to help local law enforcement and governments better address issues of elder abuse - including financial scams, and this bill will also require the Attorney General create a national elder fraud telephone hotline. As we heard from the experts who joined us last night, reporting fraud is the first step in stopping it, and this hotline will be an important tool for law enforcement.
We’re also working on a number of other bills to help prevent scam and educate folks on how to protect themselves.
I’m a caregiver of an older American: what should I do to keep my loved one protected?
It’s estimated that one in ten individuals over the age of sixty are victims of some form of elder abuse. You can help prevent this by making sure your loved one has a community, and look out for signs of abuse. Click here to learn about what to look for.
Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 877-765-8388 if you have any questions or concerns.