Help seniors avoid COVID-19 health scams
Seniors aren't just the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, they're also the most vulnerable to COVID-19 health scams.
During the last few months, scores of telephone, text and email hoaxes have popped up, often targeting seniors. As soon as one is shut down, two more spring up.
It's important to be on guard against fraudsters capitalizing on the crisis. If you have a senior in your life, be sure to warn them and protect them, because they're at higher risk.
Why scam artists target seniors
According to the FBI, seniors are a favorite target of scammers for several reasons. For one thing, it's assumed most seniors have savings. For another, many people raised in decades past were brought up to be trusting. And of course, seniors are especially worried about their health now, which makes them easier marks.
Compounding the issue, many seniors may not want to admit they've been victimized because they don't want their family to question their judgment.
Common COVID-19 health scams to avoid
While there are too many scams to cover them all, here's some common ones:
Impostor texts and emails impersonating organizations like the CDC, Red Cross, WHO or IRS. Often, these link to websites that look authentic but are not. They'll ask for your personal and/or financial information, which real organizations won't do.
Offers of free COVID-19 tests, vaccines and "cures."
Robocalls from "charities" requested pandemic-related donations.
"Alerts" announcing outbreaks in your area and offering health counseling.
In addition, there are financially focused scams regarding stimulus payments, work-from-home opportunities, etc. Be careful!
How to respond to suspicious communications
• Never respond to calls, texts or emails from unknown or unusual numbers. (Fraudsters can spoof anyone's phone number; email accounts can be hacked.)
• Never share your personal or financial information in response to such inquiries.
• Be especially careful if you're pressured to disclose private information or make an urgent payment. Legitimate parties don't work that way.
• Don't click any links in suspicious texts or emails or open any attachments.
• Don't make charitable donations over the phone without checking the charity first.
If you or a senior family member receives a suspicious communication about COVID-19, file a complaint with the FCC and alert your local law enforcement agency. Do the same if you think you (or they) may have been scammed. In addition, report it to the appropriate organization, whether bank, credit card company, Medicare, Social Security, etc. From there, they will tell you how to proceed.
It's critical to protect our health -- and that of those of the seniors we love -- during the COVID-19 crisis. That includes our financial health and peace of mind, too.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area's senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com.