I don’t know about you, but I recently received a text with a link that looked legitimate. It seemed reasonable to click and get more detailed information, but for some reason I hesitated and I’m glad I did. When I called the company, the text had not come from them. This new scam has even coined a new word “Smishing”, a combination of SMS (texting technology) and phishing.
Smishing texts look like they come from a legitimate number like the IRS or a company you do business with and the message seems urgent. They may ask for personal information, make it seem like you need to sign up for something important like a COVID-19 vaccine or contain a link to click on which resolves a problem. Typically, these links will download malware to your device. This is particularly worrisome since we use our smartphones like a laptop, ordering products or joining Zoom meetings, which results in sensitive data being kept on our phones.
Mom doesn’t use a smartphone, but the increase in robocalls, particularly around COVID-19 and stimulus payments, makes her and everyone who texts, emails and uses social media vulnerable. Access to personal information is always the goal and scammers are constantly creating new ways to take advantage simply by following the headlines.
Right now, in addition to the “Grandparents” call, be suspicious of:
– requests for money to get a vaccine or be put on a waiting list
– vaccine ads on social media, web sites or emails
– phone calls that will sell you COVID-19 vaccines
– offers of COVID-19 antibody tests
– offers of masks, test kits or household cleaners that are in short supply
– emails or social media posts offering to secure your stimulus check by clicking on a link or requiring a fee to confirm personal data like your social security number
Keeping up with all the new scams is difficult but you can sign up to receive fraud text alerts from AARP by texting FWN to 50757. If you receive a scam email, phone call or text you can report it to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.
Along with scam phone calls, texts and emails, we should also be on the lookout for Medicare fraud. In 2019, $28.91 billion in improper Medicare payments were made. False claims and fraudulent billing practices, like upcoding, are just a couple of ways Medicare fraud and abuse happens and it is at a huge cost to us, the consumers.
I wish I had known about Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) when my parents kept getting phone calls that they were eligible for a back brace under Medicare’s Durable Medical Equipment (DME) program, which they did not need and we never inquired about.
SMP programs are nationwide, grant-funded projects of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL). Unsolicited phone calls like this can be reported to an SMP in your state. They will review for fraud, error or abuse and make referrals to state and federal agencies if fraud or abuse is suspected. Interestingly enough, these calls stopped when my parents’ prescription program changed to a different provider.
Keep lines of communication with your elder open on this topic by relating stories of calls, emails or texts you have received and thought were suspicious. Relating your experience opens the door for you to share with them information about the latest scams and it gives them the opportunity to tell you about their experiences and concerns. Together you can report the scam or fraud to AARP or your local Senior Medicare Patrol. Not only does it give everyone a feeling of control, it can also help to shut down the scammers.
Additional Resource: Scam Safety and the FBI
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.