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Stopping scams during the pandemic

Golden Living

The COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak may be new to us this year, but the scammers trying to take advantage of us are all too familiar. What’s different this time? Due to the physical distancing necessary for safety, it’s harder for seniors to stay connected with their usual network of friends, family and neighbors. This leaves an opening for scammers to exploit, and that’s just what they’re doing. Some of their methods may change, but we can adapt if we’re diligent.

If you’re caring for a senior, share this column with them — especially if they don’t have internet access and are more isolated than they’d ordinarily be.

If you have access to a printer, you can find a printable Office for the Aging scam prevention resources sheet at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

You don’t have to answer that call!

Scammers rely on stirring up panic, which can lead to mistakes. The best defense against somebody trying to stir up panic is to know that they’re trying to scare you, and to have a plan in place.

When your phone rings, don’t pick up right away until you’re sure it’s somebody you know. If it’s an unfamiliar number, or you don’t have Caller ID, ignore the call and let your answering machine or voice mail take it. Many scammers operate auto-dialing technology and will disconnect if they encounter this simple defense.

If your phone has Caller ID, look for the “likely spam” or “likely scam” message that many providers now display for customers.

But what’s the plan if you’ve picked up the phone, either out of force of habit or because you don’t have Caller ID or an answering system, and now there’s a suspected scammer on the line with you? Simple: just hang up. Don’t say anything or push any buttons. Just hang up.

Scammers won’t give up

The COVID-19 outbreak is a potential bonanza for scammers selling fake virus treatment kits, fake cures and vaccines, and so on. The outbreak may be new, but the scammers’ goal is the same: to get at your personal information.

Ignore anyone who contacts you and asks for your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card information, Medicare and/or insurance ID number, driver’s license number or any other personally identifiable information by phone, in person, by text message or email.


Todd N. Tancredi is the director of the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA). Golden Living is prepared by the OFA in Poughkeepsie; it can be reached at 845-486-2555, ofa@dutchessny.gov or www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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