There are a plethora of scammers out there, and it's important to be aware of them in order to protect yourself.
Here are a couple to watch out for:
Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin mailing new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. The new Medicare cards will no longer show your Social Security number, instead opting for a unique Medicare number. Scammers are taking advantage by calling and claiming to be from Medicare. They are asking for your Social Security number or demanding you pay for your new card. Hang up, and report scams to the FTC
Medicare will mail your card, at no cost
, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account or call 1-800-772-1213. When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
When you get your new card, be sure to destroy your old card. Don’t just toss it in the trash. Shred it. If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep that because you’ll still need it for treatment.
To recap, as the new Medicare cards start being mailed, be on the lookout for Medicare scams.
- Don’t pay for your new card. It’s yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
- Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that’s a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
- Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would any other health insurance or credit card. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card. Identity thieves could use it to get medical services.
For more information about changes to your Medicare card go to go.medicare.gov/newcard. And if you’re a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC.
An increasingly common one involves hotels. You’re awakened at night by a phone call from the front desk saying there’s been a problem with your credit card. Then, you are asked to read the number one more time, presumably to run it again. The scammers hope you’ll do something while half-asleep that you’d never do when wide awake: give out credit card info to a stranger on the phone.
Other hotel guests find pizza delivery menus slipped under their doors, and when they place an order using a debit or credit card, they get no extra cheese … just a stolen identity.
Another scam involves a cabbie who unloads your bags at the hotel or airport in a rush, then speeds away with at least one of your bags in the trunk. Sgt. Jerry MacDonald of the Las Vegas Police Department has seen plenty of this one: “Trust me when I tell you, they’ll snatch your luggage up faster than you can blink an eye.”
Scams can happen anytime, though. And they can happen anywhere. Scammers often take advantage of the very technologies we’ve grown to depend on. For instance, a recent version involves cellphones and the number 72. You might receive an awful call telling you of a death in the family. It may include instructions to call another number beginning with *72 for details (a hospital, perhaps, or a doctor). But there’s no death and no doctor; this just transfers your number to the scammer, who can give it to anyone in the world, with you picking up the tab. Don’t use *72 or any other number to forward calls to someone you don’t know.
Phones are also the medium for juror scams. Individuals get calls saying they’ve failed to turn up for jury duty. They're asked for personal details so the court can cancel an arrest warrant. They may also suggest they confirm those details for possible future jury duty. Be aware: Courts never seek details like a credit card or Social Security number over the phone. If in doubt, contact the court directly. And report the incident to the police.
Speaking of police, there are reports of scammers telephoning as bogus cops, saying the marks have been photographed breaking the speed limit. They are demanding a hefty fine (payable by credit card, naturally). Don’t be cowed; legitimate police officers don’t do this. Ever.
Everyone uses text messaging today, so text phishing has become as common as email phishing used to be. Scammers will send a text message, supposedly from your bank or credit union, asking you to visit a website. Once again, it asks for personal details to “unlock” or “verify” your account. As a general rule, never follow a link you’re not sure about.
A new twist on the scam phone call has been reported by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Scammers are calling immigrants in the U.S. pretending to be from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). They threaten people with investigation or a lawsuit, throwing around terms like “affidavit” and “allegations,” and of course they tell you to pay by money transfer or gift card. The IRCC, like the USCIS, doesn’t collect payments this way. They have no reason to ask for basic personal info they would already possess (birthdate, for example, or passport number). And they don’t threaten to arrest or deport people.
Mobile Wallet Breaches
David Dewey, director of research at Pindrop Security, says scammers thwarted by chip-embedded credit cards have turned to mobile wallets. They can tap into accounts through Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, PayPal and others.
Dewey put the security of mobile wallets to a little test. First, he secretly copied credit card numbers and expiration dates from a few colleagues. Then a little Google investigating revealed the answers to “secure” identification questions (such as a colleague’s mother’s maiden name). Within minutes, Dewey had strolled over to Whole Foods and bought lunch for the office. (The colleague was reimbursed.)
“It’s amazing how easy it was to add somebody else’s credit card info to my Apple Pay account,” Dewey says. There will always be new scams to take advantage of new technologies. Check your credit card statements carefully for unexpected charges.
No matter your circumstances, if you get a call or email asking for your money or personal information – stop.
Don’t wire money. Just hang up.