Hundreds of Local Seniors Attend ‘Scam Jam’ to Join Fight Against Fraud
Hundreds of local seniors attended ‘Scam Jam’ at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien on Monday (Sept. 17), an event aimed at helping people fight scams and fraud.
Consumers lose billions of dollars every year to various kinds of consumer fraud. According to a study conducted by AARP, people over 50 years of age are especially vulnerable and account for more than half of all victims.
A packed room of nearly 400 local seniors turned out to learn how they could spot and stop consumer fraud.
“Whether it’s bogus investment deals, the Grandparent Scam, or the newest ID Theft ploy – sophisticated con-artists are busy at work coming up with new ways to get you to hand over your hard-earned money,” says AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center Director Jean Mathisen. “It’s important to keep up to date on the latest scams and schemes to help protect you and the people you care about.”
Scam Jam attendees heard from more than a dozen organizations including the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General’s Office, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Federal Trade Commission, Senior Medicare Patrol, Adult Protective Services and others.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkin presented a section on “Skimming and Internet Fraud.” Ms. Durkin warned the crowd of the growing instances of “skimming” aimed at stealing bank card numbers and PINs from unsuspecting consumers. Scammers often get the information by installing scanners and small cameras on ATM machines. She urged consumers to take a few simple steps to avoid getting snared including:
- Wiggle the card reader: This is often where scammers will install devices to read your card and capture your information.
- Look for suspicious holes: Scammers may install small cameras that peer through pinholes in the ATM machine.
- Cover the keypad: Cover the keypad when entering your PIN. Also look around and make sure no one is watching over your shoulder or standing above or around you where they can see what your PIN is.
- Check your accounts: Check your accounts on a regular basis to make sure no one has made charges on your account or withdrawn your funds.
Mark Couey from the special investigations unit at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner talked to the group about insurance scams. According to Couey, 10% of all insurance clams may be fraudulent costing nearly $1.67 billion per year or $625 for every household in Washington State.
Couey warned attendees to be on the lookout for fake insurance companies out to defraud consumers by collecting premiums for bogus policies with no intention of paying claims. These so-called companies might offer policies at costs that are significantly lower than competitors’ prices or they might be difficult to reach by phone — if there’s a listed phone number at all. He urged consumers to check out insurance agents and companies before doing business by using the OIC’s online lookup tool at www.insurance.wa.gov.
Attendees also learned how to spot and stop Medicare fraud during a presentation by Roya Rezai, Branch Chief for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rezai warned the crowd that if anyone contacts you and claims to be from Medicare or the Social Security Administration and they ask you to share your Medicare number – it’s a scam. Medicare already has your number and anyone who asks for it may be targeting you for Identity Theft.
Rezai also urged the group to review their Explanation of Benefits form from Medicare for charges on any services they did not receive. She counseled them to call the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program with any concerns or questions at 1-800-562-6900. SHIBA is a program of the State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
In all, more than 16 separate agencies and organizations participated in Scam Jam. AARP has posted a full list of the organizations and contact information on their website. If consumers have any questions about scams and schemes, they can contact the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center toll-free at 1-800-646-2283 or visit www.aarp.org/wa.