bbb on seniors Let’s have a scam-free new year

January 18, 2019

Year after year, you hear countless stories of people losing their hard-earned money to relentless scam artists looking to make an easy buck. These professional cons artists are very good at what they do. You know this because they continue to make money off well-meaning people who believe their convincing cons. Here are the red flags to look and listen for:

“FREE” offers

Paying to win

Requests for untraceable forms of payment (money orders, gift cards, green dot money packs)

So, try to make 2019 a scam-free year by keeping these things in mind and working hard to follow this advice:

Beware of free offers — remember, there is always a catch.

There is no such thing as a free lunch! Scammers will give you free food as a way to get your undivided attention and make you feel obligated to listen to their inevitable sales pitch. Save yourself from heartache and heartburn and stop and check on the product and company with the BBB before writing any checks.

Scammers will also call you and offer you free products in exchange for your Medicare number. It may not be money directly out of your pocket, but I can assure you, you are being scammed and someone is paying for it.

Know where your money goes — make charitable contributions directly to your organization of choice. If you want peace of mind that your money is going to a good cause, do your research and pick a legitimate charity or non-profit organization to donate to directly. Scammers will call you on your phone, approach you on your street, or come directly to your door to ask for cash that they will put directly into their own pockets. Check your favorite charities out by calling the Better Business Bureau at 713-868-9500.

Stop answering your telephone — Use an answering machine or voicemail service to screen all your calls from number you do not know and tell your friends and family what you are doing. This is the only way to avoid getting caught in a trap to give out money or personal information like your Social Security or Medicare numbers. If you answer the phone and talk to these people, even briefly, they will keep calling back. Some of the most common telephone scams include: 1.) You have a virus on your computer; 2.) You owe the IRS money; 3.) You have won the lottery; 4.) Your doctor wants you to have a knee brace or back brace. What do all these scams have in common? They either want you to wire money or give them your banking information or Medicare number. These are crooks. Hang up and stop answering your phone. It’s the only way to ensure you won’t get caught in a scam.

Talk to your family about “the grandparent scam” — Set up a family code word to ask any callers who say they are a family member in trouble. When asked to keep something a secret, immediately hang up and call your family member to discuss the call. One grandmother in California sent more than $60,000 to these scammers and did not talk to family member because she was told there was a gag order in place. You should never believe that a stranger on the phone is giving you factual information before you check it out first.

Let’s resolve to work together this year to defeat scammers. Cut out this article and discuss it with your friends and family. Together, we might not only save people from losing their hard earned savings, these crooks might be put out of business. Wouldn’t that be nice? Feel free to call anytime with questions or concerns at 713-341-6141.

Melissa Ramsey is the BBB Education Foundation columnist. For more information, call 713-341-6141.