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.

Medical Identity Theft: What to Do and How to Prevent It

Medicare is replacing its old cards with new ones. They contain an 11-digit code instead of a Social Security number. Unfortunately, even though the cards have not yet been issued, scammers are taking advantage of this change.

A caller pretending to be a Medicare representative will ask for payment in exchange for the new ID. Alternatively, the caller might claim to need the victim’s medical information to send out their new card. In reality, though, the cards are free and will be mailed automatically.

In another variation, a caller will wrongly insist that the victim must purchase Medicare’s prescription drug coverage or risk losing all coverage. 

In another ruse not limited to Medicare members, the caller asks for the victim’s checking account number and Social Security number to deposit a supposed refund from their insurer.

Once the scammer has the victim’s medical information, though, they can:

  • Pose as the victim to see a doctor,
  • Obtain prescriptions, and
  • File a false health claim.

Don’t be the next victim!  Here’s what you need to know about medical identity theft. 

The cost.
The average medical identity theft costs $13,500 to fix, but can affect other areas of life and home, such as:

  1. Loss of health coverage. Scammers might max out your benefit limits, leaving you with no coverage. 
  2. Ruined credit history. Scammers can destroy your credit history by racking up hospital bills in your name and then disappearing.
  3. False medical records. When the scammer receives treatment in your name, it’s documented on your medical records. This can be extremely dangerous when you seek medical attention in the future.
  4. Higher premiums. The scammer’s medical activity may cause your premiums to rise. 

Preventing medical scams.
Take proactive steps to ensure you’re not the next victim.

  • Know that Medicare will never call you. They always contact members via mail.
  • Be wary of suspicious-looking bills from third-party providers. If you receive any, alert your insurer immediately.
  • Study your Explanation of Benefits (EOB). If you spot treatments you don’t remember receiving, notify your provider.
  • Check your medical records. Always check them regularly for suspicious doctor visits, prescriptions or maladies.
  • Review your credit history often. If you see unfamiliar charges, immediately ask for a fraud alert and place a freeze on your credit.

Fixing your medical history.
If you spot an error on your medical records, it’s crucial that you correct it so it doesn’t affect your medical treatment in the future. Send a copy of the documents detailing the discrepancy to every medical professional and facility involved in your care. 

Fighting back.
If you’ve been victimized by medical identity theft, be sure to report it! Alert the FTC using their website at www.ftc.gov, or at 1-877-438-4338. If you are a member of Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or visit www.Medicare.gov. Alternately, report the scam to your own insurance provider.