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Scammers inundate Americans with billions of illegal robocalls annually, many of which come from overseas. To combat this trend, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is developing options to block robocalls though an effort called Operation Stop Scam Calls. The FTC says it’s targeting not only telemarketers but also the companies who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ telephone numbers to robocallers.
A Never Ending Battle
Recently, the federal government ramped up its project Point of No Entry, which targets the “point of entry” providers that field illegal calls from outside the U.S. Regulators describe these gateway providers as “on-ramps for international call traffic.” Overseas robocallers send a call to a gateway provider, which in turn hands the call off to a U.S. network carrier.
A Never Ending Battle
Robocallers use a variety of deceptive tactics to get you to answer, including spoofing, which tricks caller ID into displaying fake phone numbers. If you answer, the robotic voice on the other end might claim to represent a utility, a name-brand company, or a government agency. Another recognizable robocall involves a pitch for an extended warranty on your car. The goal: to get you to give up personal information or cash.
More than 369,000 incidents of financial abuse targeting older adults are reported to authorities in the U.S. each year, causing an estimated $4.8 billion in losses, according to Comparitech, a cybersecurity research company. Realistically, those numbers probably understate the problem. Experts agree that elder financial exploitation is drastically under-reported. Experts also say that in most cases, the abuse can be prevented before it starts. Take these steps to help protect yourself or loved ones from financial exploitation:
Appoint a Trusted Contact for Accounts and Investments
It’s important to choose the right person to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Or persons: If you invest two people with this responsibility, they can share the workload and hold one another accountable.
Stay in Touch with Older Loved Ones
A natural consequence of aging can be losing connections through retirement, moves, and the deaths of spouses, family members and friends. These events can often lead to social isolation, so be sure to maintain close contact with older loved ones through regular visits, phone and video calls, emails and texts. Encourage them to stay involved with others through a faith community, volunteer activities or other social groups like CorClub!
Get to Know Your Loved One’s Caregivers
If you need to hire in-home help for a loved one, consider going through an agency that does rigorous screening and have policies in place in case of theft, such as contacting authorities and reimbursing you.
Once hired, observe how the caregiver is taking care of your loved one. Are they keeping them clean? Stocking the refrigerator with healthy food? Giving medications regularly? If you have suspicions or an uneasy feeling about a caregiver, find another.
While job-search websites are valuable tools, they’re also easy hunting grounds for scammers who pose as employers. Their goal: to get an applicant’s personal information or money.
How Fake-Employer Scams Work
While job scams have been around for many years, they accelerated during the pandemic, when virtual job interviews for work-at-home positions became more common. Without an in-person meeting it’s easier for scammers to pass themselves off as legitimate employers; and because interviewing for a job often requires filling out an application with personal information, it makes for an ideal place to steal someone’s personal information.
Aside from personal information, many fake employers focus solely on taking job seekers’ money. They might require an applicant to spend thousands of dollars purchasing specialized equipment, such as a laptop and software, from a specific online vendor. However, that specific online vendor’s website is a part of the scam, leaving the job seeker out of money and without the goods they thought the purchased.
Other fake employers hire work-at-home employees to receive, repackage and resend merchandise overseas. What the workers don’t realize is that the goods have been purchased with stolen credit cards, and that they’re helping the thieves cover their tracks.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned consumers about a new twist on the scam that involves criminals reaching out to people on LinkedIn and suggesting that they apply for a certain job. If you send your résumé, the supposed recruiter directs you to a website where you can reformat it so it’s compatible with the company’s applicant-tracking system. Then, the BBB says, “You visit the website, where you find out you’ll need to submit personal information and make a payment for the service. If you accept, you’ll receive a ‘formatted’ résumé that doesn’t look much different from your original résumé — if you receive anything at all.” What seemed like a helpful service turns out to be a scam to obtain your money and personal details.
Preventing Job-Opportunity Scams
- Check Out the Potential Employer: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends doing an online search, using the company’s name plus the words “scam,” “complaint” or “fraud.” If postings from other job seekers start popping up, that’s an immediate red flag. If the recruiter claims to be from a legitimate company, find its actual website and see if there’s a job listing that matches the one the recruiter mentioned.
- Watch for Red Flags: One obvious sign of a scam is a job recruiter who quickly asks you to switch the conversation from the job search platform to an encrypted app, like WhatsApp or Telegram, that makes tracing him or her more difficult. Typos, misspellings, and unusual wording in messages could also be hints that you’re dealing with a scammer from another country. If a recruiter asks right away for your Social Security number or bank account information, that’s another red flag.
- Don't Pay to Work: Legitimate employers don’t make you pay to get a job.
- Seek Advice Before Taking a Job: Before you accept a new position, discuss the opportunity with someone you trust. That person may see a warning sign that you’ve missed.
- Report Online Job Scams: If you spot or have been victim of a scam report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The more information authorities have, the better they can identify patterns, link cases, and ultimately catch the criminals.