Federal officials last month announced details of the scam, which swindled millions from victims and took advantage of the elderly
Federal officials revealed last month that hundreds of thousands of individuals fell victim to a telemarketing scheme that cost upwards of $300 million and lasted for more than two decades.
The scam tricked victims into paying unnecessary fees for magazine subscriptions. Many of the victims were elderly, the Star Tribune reports. Officials referred to it as the “largest elder fraud scheme in the nation.”
A scam like this is a reminder to watch out for bad actors, especially over the phone. And it’s not just the elderly who are at risk. Anyone can become the target of a scam.
However, with a few precautions, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of telemarketing schemes and financial fraud in general. Start with these steps.
Never Share Your Personal or Financial Information Over the Phone
Do not give your personal information — which might include your full name, birth date, address, or social security number — over the phone to someone you don’t know. You should also avoid sharing financial information such as your credit card or bank account number.
Don’t Let Yourself Become Pressured into Making a Purchasing Decision or Sending Money On the Spot
Is the caller promising a “limited time offer” that you must sign up for over the phone? Or is a “charity” asking for donations over the phone, with a deadline within the next few minutes? Don’t take the risk.
A legitimate company or organization would give you the time and information in order to make a financial decision. Chances are, if they’re putting the pressure on, it’s actually a scam.
If you receive a phone call and you aren’t sure if the caller is legitimate or a potential scammer, write down the phone number, ask for the caller’s name and the organization, and conduct some research on your own. A quick Google search will often tell you if you are the target of a telemarketing scheme, or if the company is legitimate. Some reliable sources to check include the Better Business Bureau (for companies) and Charity Navigator (for nonprofits).
And if you receive a phone call about renewing a subscription of some kind, check your account status online rather than sending money over the phone.
Remember That Government Agencies Are Not Allowed To Ask For Money Over the Phone
Some scammers will pretend to call from a government agency like the IRS or Social Security Administration and use scare tactics to trick you into sharing personal information.
Government agencies are not allowed to threaten people, request money, or demand personal information over the phone. If you receive an angry call from a government agency “representative” who is demanding money, you can hang up and contact that agency yourself to confirm that they did not need anything from you.
And while you’re at it, fill out an online form with the agency to report a scam.
If You Are the Victim Of Financial Fraud, Contact Your Bank and Law Enforcement Right Away
If you suspect you may have been the victim of a telemarketing scam, inform your financial institutions immediately.
You should also review your credit report for any unusual activity, and create an alert with the three credit bureaus. You can also file a police report with your local law enforcement and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Becoming the victim of a scam can be emotionally and financially disastrous. Remain vigilant and question requests that seem unusual. For more tips on how to protect yourself from scams and financial fraud, visit our security page.