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Protect Yourself from Phone Scams

Did you know that seniors are at higher risk of falling prey to a phone scam? According to SeniorLiving.org, older people tend to be more trusting, have higher savings, are often isolated and are often not tech-savvy, all of which makes them an easier target.

Once a scammer has you on the phone, he or she will use heavy-handed tactics, such as phony sales pitches, promises and threats, to get you to part with your money.

SeniorPlanet.org, along with many other organizations that work with seniors, suggests a number of steps that you can take to protect yourself from phone scammers:

• NEVER Give Out Personal or Financial Information. Banks, Medicare, the IRS, the police or sheriff’s department, local government agencies such as the court system, and credit card companies and reputable businesses NEVER call asking you for your Social Security number, Medicare number, bank account number, date of birth, or credit card information. Hang up right away even if the person on the other end threatens you with court action or suspending your health care coverage. Then call your local police department and report the phone call.

• Don’t Answer Unrecognized Phone Numbers. It’s simple — if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone. And it’s especially important that you never answer a call from an unrecognized number during the night when you aren’t fully awake and might be more easily talked into offering the information requested.

• Beware the “One Ring” Scam: If your phone rings once, don’t be tempted to call back because you believe you’ve missed the call. This could be part of a scam that racks up high phone bill costs, similar to calling a 900 number. If the call was from a friend or family member they will call back.

• Don’t Follow Pre-recorded Messages: If you do answer the phone and get a message asking you to press “1” to talk with a live operator or another number to be taken off the calling list, resist the urge to follow the instructions. This often leads to more robocalls and more attempts to steal your private information. You can avoid this altogether if you make it a practice never to answer phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

• Add Your Phone Number to the Do Not Call Registry: While not entirely fool-proof, adding your number to the FREE Do Not Call Registry means that most legitimate telemarketers will not make an unsolicited call to your number. Go to this website to sign up: www.DoNotCall.gov. Note: Political calls are exempt, a good thing for New Hampshire residents to know as the Presidential Primary season is in full swing right now.

• Avoid the Word “Yes” If You Do Answer the Phone: In this clever scam, the caller begins by asking, “Can you hear me.” If your answer is “Yes,” your response is recorded and they will use this to claim that you agreed to a monthly service or subscription.

• Get It In Writing: Always tell anyone who is soliciting you over the phone: “I never buy from someone or contribute to a charity over the phone. Send me the information in writing.” Never give your credit card information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and know exactly whom you are speaking with.

• Beware the Fake Accident Scam: In this very popular scam, the caller pretends to be a grandchild or other relative who has been in an accident and is in the hospital and needs you to wire money right away. Always call a trusted friend or family member to help you verify the accuracy of this information.

• Check Your Phone Bill Each Month: Carefully check your phone bill for any questionable numbers. If you find a suspicious one, report it to your phone company and to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) at 1-877-382-4357.

• Report Scammers: If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a scammer or an abusive telemarketer, notify your local police department, then file a complaint with the FTC and the NH Consumer Protection Bureau at www.doj.nh.gov/consumer or 1-888-468-4454.

• Stay Informed: Phone scams change frequently as new schemes are devised to cheat you out of your money. To protect yourself and your private information, your best course of action is to stay informed and follow the recommendations given above.

Just thinking about the possibility of phone scams impacting your life can be a bit scary, but as the old adage says, “Knowledge is power,” and being aware and informed makes you stronger and less vulnerable to scammers.

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