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Confirmation, refund scams target seniors for identity theft and fraud

Confirmation, refund scams target seniors for identity theft and fraud

The other day I got a strange call purportedly from Amazon, wanting to confirm my order for a new Apple computer. The message left instructions to contact them immediately at a toll-free number to prevent possible fraud on my account.

Amazon rarely calls customers about anything, so I deleted the message and blocked the caller’s number from future calls.

Seconds later, a text message arrived from a German telephone number, instructing me to press a “link” to prevent fraudulent activity on my Amazon account. I deleted the text message and checked my Amazon account online. The only new purchase on my account was a toaster I bought my mother a few days earlier.

The goal of this kind of scam is to engage the “target,” usually an older adult, into pressing a link or dialing a number to discuss account details and provide personal information under the guise of preventing fraud or to receive a refund. In good faith, the senior complies, but ends up talking to a scammer posing as a customer service rep at a bank, utility company or big retailer such as Amazon.

The scammer may ask if you have just used your account to buy something expensive, like a smart phone or computer. Or the scammer may say you are due a refund for a billing error, rebate or an overpayment.

In any case, the scammer will dig for all the personal information they can get, including details of your credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security and Medicare numbers, even your driver’s license number.

Once you’ve given up this trove of personal information, don’t look for a nice deposit in your account — just the opposite. The scammers are off to the races to steal everything they can, in YOUR NAME, using all the information you just gave them.

If you think you have been contacted by Amazon or anyone else regarding fraud or that you are due a refund, DO NOT respond to the contact information provided in any text message, voice mail or email. Contact the organization directly using a telephone number from an old bill or receipt, or from the business’s actual website.

Take your time to double-check things. If you need help, call a friend, family member, your accountant or lawyer or your local law enforcement agency.

Telltale signs of confirmation and refund scams are:

・ A message saying that an expensive phone or computer suspiciously was purchased on your account, and a link or toll-free number conveniently provided for you to respond;

・ A message that a company, maybe even a local hospital, is trying to contact you to send a refund, but needs your information to deposit funds directly to your credit card, debit card or bank account. Be on high alert when anyone calls about an unexpected refund or rebate;

・ An unexpected call telling you to react immediately to prevent fraud on your credit or debit card. Hang up. Use a contact number you can find independently and call the bank or business who issued the card to check your account. And remember that many card issuers automatically disable your credit or debit card if they detect fraudulent purchases;

・ A sudden call from anyone saying you need to do something quickly to protect your account, and putting pressure on you to react NOW. It’s a scam. Hang up. Scare tactics and pressure are sure signs of a scam;

・ If you are contacted by anyone saying they are from Amazon, do not respond. Visit Amazon’s website to find the official customer support number. Contact Amazon only at that number to discuss your account.

Seniors who read this column each month will, I hope, be better prepared to recognize scammers when they call.

Most of the wealth in this country was earned and saved by the folks who kept America safe and sound through a lifetime of industry and service. Hang on to your savings by being careful when you get a message asking you to confirm account information, or help process a refund.

If you have a question on a possible scam, talk to a family member or call your local police department. Seniors can also call their county Senior Services Unit for more information about scams. In Mahoning County, call Bob Schaeffer at 330-480-5078. In Trumbull County, call Don Hyde at 330-675-7096.

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