RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) – This week was National Consumer Protection Week, which aims to help people understand their consumer rights and avoid fraud.
Attorney General Jason Miyares offers some guidance to help Virginians avoid becoming victims of fraud.
According to a press release, the best way to protect yourself from scams is to be proactive and know the signs of what a scam might be.
Below is a list of some warning signs:
- Offer seems too good to be true – If it seems too good to be true, like winning a large sum of money by chance, it almost certainly is.
- Requests for Fees or Upfront Payments – Scammers often request payment before you can receive any funds or “winnings”. Never pay fees or taxes in advance.
- Pressure – A genuine business or government agency will not threaten you or pressure you to act immediately, especially if you have never heard of them before.
- Know who you’re dealing with – If you can’t find any information about the person or company online (reviews, phone number, or verified address), it’s probably a scam.
- You want private information – You should never give out your bank details, social security number, or other personal information.
- Untraceable Payment Method – Never transfer money to someone you don’t know.
- Grammar Errors or Poor Production Values – You should be suspicious if the correspondence you receive is full of errors, low-resolution images, or poor formatting.
- Suspicious email domains and web addresses – Businesses rarely use free email services like Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo or Gmail. Even if the company seems reputable, you should do some research to make sure they have contact information readily available and double check the information.
- Suspicious or no addresses – If there is no physical address and your contacts don’t give you one, then it’s a scam.
- Requesting access to your computer – You should never allow anyone remote access to your computer unless you have contacted them and are 100% sure it is not a scammer.
Miyares also encourages people to adopt lifestyle practices that reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of a scam.
The press release states that anyone could fall for a scam, but older people are being targeted more often because scammers believe they are more vulnerable.
Below is a list of some tips:
- Never transfer money or send cash or a prepaid card – once your money is gone, you cannot trace it or get it back.
- Don’t give out any personal information
- Don’t trust unfamiliar names or numbers – scammers are good at using technology to steal fake caller IDs, phone numbers, emails, etc.
- Join this National Do Not Call Registration and don’t answer numbers you don’t know.
- Stay socially active. Being alone increases the risk of becoming a victim of financial exploitation – Keep in touch with your community and stay informed of what’s going on.
- To plan. Document your financial arrangements. Planning your future puts you in control of your assets and resources. Write down your wishes regarding the financial structure. It reduces the chance of a misunderstanding.
- Don’t give someone property away in exchange for a lifetime of care. Before you make an arrangement with someone who will be your lifelong guide, discuss the arrangement with a lawyer, financial advisor or other professional you trust. Explain what compensation, if any, will be paid to the carer.
- Never sign anything you don’t understand. If you’re asked to sign a document, have someone you trust verify it.
- Be careful when giving someone power of attorney. Before granting a power of attorney, make sure you understand the agreement and the power of attorney you are giving your power of attorney.
- Keep track of your financial documents and personal belongings. Monitor your savings, checking or retirement account balances. Contact your financial institution if you discover any accounting irregularities. Keep an inventory of your jewelry and other personal items. A person can try to take these items without your permission.
Some of the most common scams targeting older Virginians are telemarketing scams, love scams, and grandparent scams.
Further information on financial exploitation can be found here here.