MADISON – Grandparents Day is this Sunday, Sept. 8, and it is the perfect time to sit down and catch up with those you love.
It also is a chance to check in with your older relatives to see if they have been targeted by fraudsters or identity thieves and to share some information about the latest scams.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) can help.
An ideal way to start a conversion with older relatives is by sharing a copy of DATCP’s senior scams bookmark, available by contacting DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline (800-422-7128 or firstname.lastname@example.org). The bookmark provides a quick look at the main scams that target seniors and offers simple tips to spot fraud.
For a more thorough resource, consider sharing a copy of The Wisconsin Senior Guide. This free booklet helps seniors navigate tricky consumer issues, and provides a detailed look at a wide range of scams and identity theft risks.
The Wisconsin Senior Guide is available on the DATCP website or can be ordered by contacting the Consumer Protection Hotline.
Lastly, sign your relatives up to receive DATCP’s consumer protection news releases by email or text message. This will give them notice of the latest scams.
Some of the common scams targeting seniors include:
• Grandparent scams (or “family emergency” scams) — a scammer falsely claims that a family member is in trouble and requests money. The scammers often claim to be a grandchild in need of help.
• Tech support scams — a “computer technician” says you have a computer virus that they can repair in exchange for a payment and remote access to your computer.
• Timeshare resale fraud — someone claims that they have a buyer for your timeshare. After signing a phony “sales contract,” the victim continuously is asked for payments for document fees and other expenses.
• Social Security Administration (SSA) scams — a fake SSA representative tells you that you are at risk for arrest or that your Social Security number no longer might be valid.
• IRS/U.S. Treasury scams — a fake “federal agent” claims you owe back taxes and demands immediate payment.
• Medical alert/equipment fraud — scammers place robocalls to potential victims pitching “free” medical equipment and personal emergency alert systems. The items often are of questionable quality and are tied to recurring fees.
• Romance scams — a phony online love interest repeatedly asks for money.
• Prize/lottery fraud — a scammer claims that you have won a major prize but must pay them (repeatedly) for taxes or fees.
Many scams and identity theft traps are similar in what they are seeking but rely on different narratives to draw in their victims. By recognizing the warning signs, seniors can protect themselves from a wide range of rip-offs.
Review the following simple tips with your relatives:
• Never wire money or give the account number and PIN code from a prepaid gift or money card to someone you do not know. These payment methods are like handing over cash — the chance for recovery is slim to none.
• Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers “spoof” the information to appear as a local number.
• Never engage with an unsolicited sales robocall. Taking any action might cause you to get additional calls. Hang up.
• Never provide personal information like your Social Security number or bank/credit card account numbers on an unsolicited call.
• Always check with a friend or family member before you act on a high-pressure sales pitch.
For more information about fraudulent activities targeting older citizens, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at https://datcp.wi.gov or contact the Consumer Protection Hotline.
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