Fraud committed against older adults was number one on the top 10 list of consumer complaints to N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office in 2018, with over 4,000 such complaints filed.

It’s safe to say many more such incidents occurred because older Americans often don’t report fraud. They may not be sure know how to report it, are too ashamed at having been victimized or don’t realize they were scammed.

Fraudsters may check the obituaries looking for widows or widowers to victimize in sweetheart scams or seek personal information like birth dates and middle names.

They may pose as relatives in trouble needing money in grandparent scams or as Medicare or IRS personnel needing Social Security numbers and other personal information.

Scammers may say they’re calling to raise money for a charity, that a fee needs to be paid to win a larger cash prize, and the list goes on.

After reminding older adult relatives or close friends that you want to help them not be scammed and not control them, some steps you can take to protect them are:

• check on them and their financial situations regularly. Discuss or review financial transactions, bills and emails to get to know what’s normal versus red flag activities;

• ask that they consult with you or another trusted person before ever giving any personal or financial information to a stranger;

• talk to them about different types of scams and how they are committed;

• remove names from telemarketing call lists because scammers get phone numbers there. Help them sign up for the National Do Not Call registry to prevent telemarketer calls by calling 888-382-1222 or registering online. This free service is provided by the Federal Trade Commission;

• get up-to-date fraud prevention tips online at Fraud.org on the fraud section on Snopes.com or on the N.C. attorney general’s website at https://www.ncdoj.gov.

Basic tips that people of any aage should to help avoid being scammed include:

• never give personal info, such as bank account or social security numbers, to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know you’ve reached the right agency;

• don’t believe it if the caller tells you to send money to cover the “handling charge” or to pay taxes;

• “limited time offers” shouldn’t require you to make a decision on the spot;

• Be suspicious of anyone who tells you not to discuss the offer with someone else.

If anyone contacts you with any offer that appears suspicious or leaves you with questions, insist on getting it in writing, end the conversation and check with someone you trust or a law enforcement agency.

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