Elder Abuse—Do You Know the Signs and How to Help?

Ohioans may not have a clear grasp of the prevalence of financial exploitation and abuse of elderly adults. According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 67 percent of Ohioans say they’ve never known an elderly person who has been the victim of some kind of elderly abuse.

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult, according to the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

According to research from the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in nine elder adults reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in the past year. Financial exploitation was a particularly prevalent form of elder abuse, with one in 20 older adults indicating they had been in some way financially mistreated in the recent past.

That number is likely just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Ohio Department of Aging, 16,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation are made each year in Ohio; however, according to the National Institutes of Health, these reports represent only one in 14 cases, and the National Adult Protective Services Association found that only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.

Many cases stay under the radar because the victim is hesitant to get their perpetrators into trouble.

According to the Ohio Credit Union League study, 84 percent of respondents believe family members and close friends are the people most responsible for protecting the elderly from financial abuse. That belief may perpetuate a dangerous trend. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, 90 percent of abusers and exploiters are the very family members and caretakers entrusted to care for the victim.

Financial institutions, especially credit unions who are close to their members and communities, are a key defense to elderly abuse by reporting suspicious activity reports for potential elderly exploitation. When and how to report elder abuse in Ohio can be located here.

Tips for Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Keep in contact.
According to AARP, it’s easier for criminals to step in and befriend elderly people when they’re lonely. Be sure to call and visit elderly friends and family members frequently. Establish yourself as a trustworthy presence for them to lean on if they find themselves worried or in trouble.

Remain vigilant.
Keep an eye on the financial habits of your elderly friends and family members. Take note of large withdrawals, unusual requests for money, or alarming lapses in memory about major financial transactions. Remember that you don’t have to prove financial exploitation to report it. Your suspicion is enough. 

Know your elderly relatives’ acquaintances.
Make sure you are becoming acquainted with the people interacting with your elderly friend or relative. It may also be helpful to know the nature of these interactions. Keep a close eye on anybody you don’t know well and track suspicious behavior in acquaintances—and family members.

Have difficult conversations.
It may be uncomfortable to ask an older relative about financial matters, especially if they’ve always been financially independent in the past. It might be equally difficult to approach a trusted relative about suspicious behavior toward an elderly acquaintance. While these issues might be sensitive, it’s important they’re brought to light, just in case.

Get professional help.
A lawyer can work with elders to establish trusts and other financial arrangements that are difficult for criminals to breach, according to Money Crashers. Lawyers can also recommend mediators and counselors who can work with families experiencing tensions over the finances of an elderly relative.

Learn how a credit union can help strengthen your financial security by visiting www.YourMoneyFurther.com.

Seven Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed on Craigslist

The arrival of warm weather and the deep house cleaning it inspires means more people are selling their old furniture, devices, sports equipment, and clothing. That’s why the amount of items like these on sites like Craigslist swells considerably during this season. There are wonderful treasures to be found, if you have the time and patience to sift through the offerings.

Conversely, if your own cleaning unveils hordes of sellable stuff you don’t use anymore, you can make good money selling them online. Unfortunately, when there’s money to be made, the scammers are never far behind. Craigslist is riddled with scammers looking to make a quick buck off people’s naivety. Follow these eight tips to stay one step ahead of scammers and keep your money safe when using Craigslist.

1.) Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers
Lots of Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site. Make sure you know the following before using Craigslist:

  • The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org. Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before finalizing a purchase.

  • Craigslist does not back any transaction on its site. You’re looking at a scam if you receive an email or text trying to sell you purchase protection.

  • There is no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. You’re dealing with a scammer if a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails.”

2.) Deal locally
The “barely used” couch that’s up for sale a couple of states over might be better-priced than the one being sold just a 10-minute drive away, but it’s always safer to deal with locals on Craigslist. According to the site’s advice on avoiding scams on their platform, you’ll avoid 99% of the scams on Craigslist by following this rule.

Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. Plus, there’s less of a chance for a blurred language barrier regarding the details of the deal.

3.) Examine the product(s) before finalizing a sale
Never rely solely on pictures to get the full scope of what you’re buying. Ask to look at the item in person. Ask to try out an item if you’re purchasing an electronic device or something else that needs to work in order to be valuable.

4.) Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check, or money order as payment
Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem to clear on sight, so you’ll agree to the sale and use the money that’s supposedly in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By that time, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for covering the funds you used while presuming it cleared.

 On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

5.) Use cash—safely
The most secure way to pay or collect funds for a Craigslist transaction is with cold cash. If the idea of handing over a large sum of money to a stranger scares you, you can make the exchange of money and goods in a safe place like your local police station.

6.) Never share your personal information with a buyer or seller
As always, when online, keep your personal information to yourself. There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, your date of birth, or even your mother’s maiden name. Back out of the deal if a contact is asking too many questions.

7.) Be wary of fake escrow service sites
Escrow services, in which a company holds onto a large sum of money for two parties in the middle of a transaction, can be super-convenient when buying and selling things online. However, they can also be a clever trap for unsuspecting victims. Scammers often create bogus escrow service sites to lure victims into dropping their money right into the scammers’ hands. The site will be a copycat of a reputable escrow service site, with some slight deviations you wouldn’t notice unless you looked for them.

It’s best to find the site yourself instead of following a pop-up ad or a link when using an escrow service site. Check the site carefully for spelling mistakes and poor syntax. Also, make sure the URL is secure and matches the site of the service you intend to use.

8.) Create a disposable number
You may need to share a working phone number when conducting business on Craigslist. You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Google Voice instead of giving out your real number. Your Google Voice number will be untraceable and will expire within 30 days of non-use.  

Getting scammed is a serious crime that can disrupt your finances. Click here to get more details on theft and how to protect your personal information.

Common Scams to Watch for After the Holidays

The mad holiday rush may be over, but scammers aren’t slowing down. The post-holiday weeks bring an increase in scams that, unfortunately, are quite believable during this time of year. Don’t be the victim of a post-holiday scam!

Read on to learn about the common ways fraudsters seek to dupe consumers after the holidays:

Gift-picking. You may be targeted by thieves who are looking for a good picking if you’re the recipient of an expensive gift. Protect yourself by keeping your gift under wraps. Dismantle all packaging representing your gift. Discard it in a covered trash or recycling bin instead of leaving it at the curb. 

Charity scams. Be wary when giving to charity this time of year. Don’t donate to any organization without first checking it out on a vetting website like CharityNavigator.com. If you have a favorite cause, contact them yourself instead of clicking on an ad that appears to represent them. 

Under priced gifts for sale. Be suspicious of private sellers offering gift items at crazy-low prices; they are likely to be scams. Proceed with caution if a sale item appears legit. Don’t rely on just email communication. Instead, get the seller’s phone number and street address. If possible, ask for references and pictures of the item. Arrange to meet the seller in a well-lit, populated area if everything checks out. Finally, never wire money online—let the cash and item change hands at the same time. 

Belated holiday e-cards. Too often, e-cards are ridden with malware. The e-card may bear the name of your friend, but scammers can easily pick names off the internet. All authentic e-cards include a confirmation code for you to copy and paste at the issuing website. 

Post-holiday ‘sales.’ Your social media platforms may be exploding with ads offering deeply discounted prices at your favorite stores. While some of these ads may be legit, lots are scams. Here’s how to spot the fake ads: 

  • The URL is off by one letter. Check each landing page as you make a purchase.

  • The site is not secure. Look for the “s” after the “http.”

  • The words “deals” or “discounts” are part of the URL. Authentic retailers rarely create new websites just to sell sale items.

  • Look for the seller’s genuine store logo on every landing page.

Post-holiday scams are everywhere, but by knowing how to spot a scam places you one step ahead of the criminals. Stay alert and stay safe by using the credit union’s mobile products that can protect you from fraud. Call 330-364-8874 or stop by your closest DoverPhila Federal Credit Union location for more information.

Don't Be A Victim of Social Security Fraud

Any of the hundreds of scams around today can make you feel like we live in a world gone mad. How cruel can someone be to con a poor victim out of thousands of dollars?

But one of the most heartless scams making the rounds is the one targeting the elderly who depend on Social Security benefits for basic living needs. Victims may be left with no resources at all when they are tricked out of their benefits or their accounts are emptied. Worse yet, scammers are fully aware that the elderly make for easy victims. Many older Americans are from a bygone era in which anyone on the phone could be trusted. They haven’t grown up in a society that knows to constantly look over their shoulders and to cover their keypads when punching in a PIN. The elderly can be naïve and trusting, and it is this endearing naivety that can make them fall prey to scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a recent surge in Social Security scams which, unfortunately, are often successful.

Here’s how these scams work:
The victim receives a phone call from an alleged Social Security employee telling them their benefits have been suspended and must be reactivated. The caller claims the suspension is due to suspicious account activity or that it happened because of a computer glitch. To lift the suspension, the scammer says, the victim must share their personal information, including full legal name, phone number, Social Security number, and financial account information.

Alternatively, the victim will receive an automated voice message instructing them to call a specific number to correct a problem with their Social Security benefits. Upon calling the given phone number, the victim is asked to provide their personal information.

In yet another version of this Social Security scam, the victim receives an email that looks like it came from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The email will include a link asking the victim to update their personal information, giving a similar backstory as above.

If you receive Social Security benefits, or you know someone else who does, protect yourself and your loved ones by reviewing and educating others about these tips:

  • The Social Security Administration will never call about suspended benefits. There’s no reason to believe a caller who claims your benefits have been suspended. First, Social Security benefits don’t get suspended because of computer glitches. Second, the SSA will not call you to request your personal information out the blue. Government agencies rarely make phone calls to private citizens. When they do, the citizen will always know to expect that call.

  • Never share personal information via unsecured means. Don’t trust just anyone. It’s best not to share personal information over the phone or the internet. If you must, verify that you are interacting with the party you believe you’ve reached. The best way to do so is by contacting the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213. Remember, con artists are experts at looking and sounding like genuine government officials. Don’t fall for their tricks.

  • Report all scam attempts. Help combat these scams by reporting any attempts made to con you out of your personal information. If you receive a phone call or an email from an alleged SSA employee requesting information, don’t respond. Instead, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or call your local Social Security office and ask if there is actually a problem with your benefits. If, as is likely, there is no problem and you’re being scammed, the SSA will be better equipped to stop the scammers from conning more victims. You can also call the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at 1-866-501-2101 or complete a Public Fraud Reporting form at the OIG website at socialsecurity.gov. Finally, report the scam attempt to the FTC at ftc.gov.

  • Tell your friends and family. Fight back by doing your own part to stop those scammers. Tell anyone you know who receives Social Security benefits about these scams and warn them not to share their information on the phone and online.

Let’s keep our money safe and send those scammers packing! Contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union at 330-364-8874 if you have questions regarding possible identity fraud or a scam with your account.

5 Scams to Avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are five scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving. 

1. BOGUS CRAZY DEALS 
An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of Ugg boots for $9? These deals sound insane because they are. And yet, thousands of people fall for these scams. And, of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they’ll use it for their own shopping spree – on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. 


2. GIFT CARDS FOR CHEAP 
In the weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might see an explosion of gift cards being sold at online marketplaces for a fraction of their real value. These cards are usually stolen from their real owners, who will likely report them lost. The card will be disabled and you’ll have spent your money on a worthless piece of plastic. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any super-cheap gift cards 


3. BAIT AND SWITCH
 
Want to win a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details, and you might be the lucky winner! Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. 

“Bait and switch” scams can happen offline. Retailers advertise deals so amazing that you’ll find yourself travelling across town to grab the bargains. Once you reach the store, though, you’ll be told those items are sold out, but you can check out what they do have in stock. You may be offered similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are a waste of your time and money. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 


4. DELIVERY PROBLEMS
 
If you receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases, be wary. You may be asked to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date. Ignore these emails; they’re likely to be scams. If you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 


5. WIRE TRANSFERS
This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and sites you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and outsmart scammers!

Fake Check Scams on the Rise

In early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about a spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017. 

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam traps annually is close to 500,000. The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year. 

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with a simple paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  • “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.

  • Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.

  • “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the financial institution. The scam becomes clear a few days later when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?

  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?

  • Every check has an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match.

  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.

  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.

  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. Contact the authorities or your financial institution if you come across any of the following:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.

  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.

  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.

  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Don’t hesitate to contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union at 330-364-8874 if you have questions regarding a suspicious check, a questionable transaction, or general fraud. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Staying Safe Online

With the average American spending 24 hours a week online, internet safety is more important than ever. A hacked or compromised computer can put you at risk for money loss, phishing scams, or even complete identity theft.

If your computer’s security has been breached, then it can be turned into a “middle man” for online theft. Criminals may remotely control a computer with weak security and use it as a patsy for large-scale crimes against hundreds or thousands of other computer users. An unprotected computer can commit awful crimes without its owner even knowing about it!

Fortunately, keeping your privacy, money, and sensitive information safe when browsing the internet is simple; all it takes is awareness, some proactive steps, and lots of common sense. Read on for steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

AVOID FAKE SITES
The easiest way to get scammed online is to visit a fraudulent site. If you are browsing a site you do not usually use, then ask yourself these questions to make sure it is safe:

  • Does your browser warn you against visiting the site? Whether you browse with Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, your browser will warn you about certain sites based on actual data and user reports.

  • Is the web text riddled with grammar mistakes and typos? Reputable website owners are careful to present a polished, professional look. If a site looks like it was written by a small child, then leave the site.

  • Is the site secure? Only visit sites with an “https” and not just an “http” in the address bar.

  • Does the digital footprint check out? Google the company’s name to see what the internet and Better Business Bureau are saying about them.

  • Is there a legitimate “Contact us” section? There should be an authentic physical address and phone number for the business.

  • Is there an excessive amount of ads? Ads are intrinsic to the online world, but if a website seems to be covered in intrusive ads then it is likely a fake.

  • Check the shipping and return policies. If you cannot find this information, the site probably doesn’t really sell anything at all – though they are happy to take your money.

  • Is there a trust seal? Companies that deal with sensitive information make an investment to earn your trust. A trust seal, like the PayPal or Norton Secured seal, tells you the company has worked hard to deserve your trust.

  • Is the URL authentic? When redirected to another site, check the new URL to see if it matches the original company.

PRACTICE PASSWORD SAFETY
It is your key to almost every online board and gated site – do your best to keep it safe! Here is how:

  • Use a password generator. The best way to ensure that your passwords do not get hacked is to use a password generator like Sticky Password, LastPass, or 1Password. These services generate a super-secure password for every site you visit – but you will only need to remember your one master password.

  • Change your password. If you do not like the idea of using a password generator, experts recommend changing your passwords every 30-40 days.

  • Never double passwords. Using common passwords across multiple sites is easy on the memory, but hard on your safety and security.

  • Use strong passwords. For optimal security, choose passwords that include a mixture of capitalization use, numbers, letters, and symbols.

UPDATE YOUR BROWSER
Perhaps the most neglected and simplest step of internet safety is keeping your browser updated. You can increase your browser’s security and improve your computer at the same time with just one click.

Here is why you will want to keep your browser running with its newest version:

  • Increased speed. Each new version of your browser is an improvement on the old one. Why lag behind when you could be using a faster browser?

  • Improved website compatibility. Lots of websites rely on updated browsers to share all of their graphics and features.

  • A better experience. A newer browser will offer you added features, customizable extensions and sleeker graphics.

An updated browser will provide better security. Internet companies are constantly looking for ways to protect you and keep you safer. Take full advantage of their efforts by always using the latest version. Updated browsers offer stronger protection against the most recent scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, malware, and more. Newer browsers have also patched up security vulnerabilities that may be present in your older browser.

Updating your browser is super-easy and super-quick. Late model computers will update automatically as soon as new iterations are released to the public. If your computer is a little older, then you can choose the “auto-update” feature available on some browsers for the same results. Otherwise, you can update your browser manually by following the instructions on your browser. These are typically easy to follow and take just a few clicks.

Follow these tips for safe online browsing. A few small steps now can save you heaps of aggravation and money lost down the line. Do not let those hackers get to you!