Neighbor Spoofing is the latest Scam to Target Senior Citizens

Even though I usually try not to answer when calls come in from an unknown number, I answered this time.  Caller ID showed a local number.  And at first when the caller started talking about my medication I fell for it.

“I’m calling to update the information on your prescriptions,” the caller said.  “If we don’t update our system today, you’ll have to get your Doctor to call in.”  Even though I deal with scams targeting Senior Citizens every day, I still didn’t realize that the caller wasn’t calling from my local drug store.

But I started wondering when he asked me to verify my identity by telling him the name of the most recent medication I had picked up.  “Why don’t you know that?” I asked.

The caller said that I had to tell him so he’d know I was really me.  That sounded just a little bit suspicious.  So I asked “are you calling from the pharmacy on 7th Street?”

He answered “please read me the numbers at the top of your prescription label.”

So I asked again “what pharmacy are you calling from?”

The man on the phone raised his voice, “If you don’t give me the information to update our system, your Doctor will need to write all new prescriptions,  That may keep you from getting the medicine you need.”

Now I knew it was a scam.  One of the biggest tools scammers use is creating false urgency.  Besides why would my pharmacist get angry just because I had a few questions?

I ended up keeping the scammer on the phone for a few more minutes answering my questions before he finally hung up.  I figured that any time he wasted on the phone with me, he wasn’t calling other senior citizens.

When you get a call like that, I urge you to hang up right away.  You don’t want to give the seamster any information by mistake.

To learn more about Neighbor Spoofing, check out this article by Ailsa Chang at National Public Radio.  Or to try to block those calls altogether, check out the app called robokiller.   Full disclosure, I haven’t tried robokiller yet.  And, no, they aren’t compensating The Seniors Center or me for this referral.

Gov. Chris Christie: “All that’s in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs”

“The government has lied to you, and they have stolen from you. They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund. All that’s in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs from money they spent on something else a long time ago. And they stole it from you because now they know they cannot pay these benefits, and Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years” —NJ Governor Chris Christie, October 29, 2015

Utility Shut-Off Scams

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Are you afraid the utility company will shut off your power or water supply? You remember making the full payment of utility bills, and yet you receive a call from the electric or water company.

…Well, maybe you don’t remember exactly. It’s possible you might think you paid it, but didn’t.

But it’s also possible a utility bill scammer is targeting you.

Let’s consider a situation in which a person pretending to be an electric company representative calls you. After picking up, you’re told that your account is past due, but they’re ready to give you last chance to pay them off.

You know you paid the bills last week. However, the scammer seems to be authentic, having your previous bill information and balance. This will all make sense until you are asked to make a payment ‘instantly’ otherwise your utility will be shut off.

Yes, the scammer will sound authentic. The situation will be legitimate, but authentic utility company does NOT ask for immediate payments.

A phone spam protection company known as Hiya reported utility-shut off scams jumped by 109% last year. The threat of shutting off the power, gas or water pressures seniors to question themselves and make instant payments.

If you receive a call like this, here’s what you should do to protect yourself:

  • Contact your utility company: The first thing you should do after receiving such a call is contact your utility company directly. In the case of delinquent accounts, the company itself will provide numerous warnings before shutting off a utility. The moment a scammer threatens to cut off your power or water supply, you should hang up the phone. After that, check your phone book to see if the numbers of your utility company and the person who called you match or not. You can also check directly with the company if there are dues to be cleared.
  • Do not make any payments: Whatever happens, you should not make any instant payment. Even if you are threatened or intimidated, NEVER wire transfer the payments–they often can’t be traced or recovered once the scammer receives it.
  • Do not provide any confidential information: There is a possibility that the imposter might ask for your personal information such as your real name, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, bank account number or credit card details (bear in mind, the real utility company already has the information it needs to provide service and process payments). These scammers are masters of making up stories to gain access to such confidential information. If the caller starts asking personal questions, hang up the phone immediately.

It’s not easy to find out if you are scammed. Sometimes, the pressure and authenticity of the situation makes it difficult to identify the scammer.

However, if this happens, immediately report the scam to your local law enforcement agency.