Sunday, August 19, 2018

Frauds and Scams Part 3

Scams are repeated because they work. The ones that work are often driven by financial life moments such as taxes, holiday shopping, and utility scams. Identity thieves and scammers often try new twists on old scams that worked in the past. So far this year, a number of different and new scams have made the news, listed here in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

Porting Scams
The scam called “porting” involves criminals stealing your phone number and your phone service in order to get access to your bank account through confirmation text messages. Scammers start by collecting your name, phone number and then gather any other information they can find about you such as your address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

Then they contact your mobile carrier and state that your phone has been stolen and ask that the number be “ported” to another provider and device. Once your number has been ported to a new device, scammers can then start accessing your accounts that require additional authorization such as code texted to your phone.

Romance Scams
Though Valentine’s Day is over, romance scams will continue to pop up throughout the year. A romance scam typically involves a criminal setting up an account on a dating site with fake information and photos for a profile that is too good to be true.  Once a target has been established, the scam usually escalates to the thief’s unveiling of a money problem. Typical scenarios include the request for funds so he or she can travel to meet you in person or to help a sick relative.

Unfortunately, seniors are the primary targets for romance scams, since they often spend more time alone as they age. Romance scams cost Americans more than $230 million as nearly 15,000 people were conned in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Secretary of State Scam
This scam starts when you receive an email claiming to be from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says you’re owed a payment he knows about because of an investigation by the FBI and CIA.  The scam reportedly states that you will receive an ATM card with more than $1 million dollars on it, but first you have to send $320 along with personal information to receive it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says this is false—warning Americans to not fall for this—or anytime you’re told you have won a prize, owe money, or may go to jail.

Shimmer Scams
A shimmer scam is an update on skimming except that thieves are using “shimmers” to target chip-based credit and debit cards. A shimmer is a very thin piece of paper that can read your card number and access your credit or debit card’s EMV chip—the chip designed to help make your card more secure.

A thief will put a shimmer into an ATM and let it collect information from each card that is used, allowing them to then create a non-chip version or magnetic strip credit card. Shimmers have been showing up more recently despite first being reported on in 2015. In 2017, the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—typically via skimming devices that capture card data—rose 10%, according to FICO.

Tax Arrest Scam
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently warned the public about “sophisticated phone scams” targeting taxpayers by claiming to be IRS employees. The scammers demand that the victims owe money to the IRS and to pay them promptly or be arrested, deported or have their driver’s license suspended.

Sometimes, the caller becomes aggressive, warning people that a Sheriff or local law enforcement will show up at their door if they don’t pay immediately. The IRS warning also reminded consumers that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone, threaten to bring in local police, ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Frauds and Scams Part 2

Scams are repeated because they work. The ones that work are often driven by financial life moments such as taxes, holiday shopping, and utility scams. Identity thieves and scammers often try new twists on old scams that worked in the past. So far this year, a number of different and new scams have made the news, listed here in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

Cryptocurrency Scams
As the price and popularity of Bitcoin and other cyber-currencies skyrocketed in late 2017, scammers eagerly sought to take advantage of the frenzy. The Japanese Bitcoin exchange Coincheck was hacked in January and the thieves were able to steal more than $500 million in cryptocurrencies. This is the largest cryptocurrency hack to date.

Facebook and Instagram have banned advertisements for certain bitcoin, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and some other cryptocurrency-related products because of deceptive and misleading practices. Several ads were leading victims to sites such as Prodeum, whose only purpose was to take their money and not provide the advertised service.

Death Threat Hoax
The FBI came out warning consumers about death threats being made through emails that state “I will be short. I’ve got an order to kill you.” The email then demands money or bitcoin as a payout from the email recipients. Other versions of the scam could state that a “hitman has been hired to kill” them. This scam is very aggressive and threatening in nature to convince people that they have to pay or else.

Fake Bank Apps
Big banks have scammers posing as them in the form of apps. A recent survey by an Avast, a multi-national cybersecurity firm, found that one in three worldwide users mistakenly believed that a fake mobile banking app was the real thing, putting their financial data at risk. Thieves use the big customer base of major banks to try to get past the secure app stores and collect personal information.

Home Improvement Scams
Another common seasonal scam centers around home improvement. As the weather gets nicer, homeowners often look to improve their homes. The Better Business Bureau says in 2017, there were nearly 350 home improvement scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker across the U.S., resulting in more than $600,000 lost.

Some scammers go door-to-door, offering to do improvement projects. They may take a deposit, and then never complete the work If you’re not sure the salesman is legit, you can ask for a card and get back to them once you have been able to research the company by visiting the BBB website. These scams can also happen after major national disasters—hail storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, and fires, among other things.

Jackpotting is a new cyber-attack scam that the Secret Service warned financial institutions about criminals installing software or hardware on ATMs that force the machines to issue large amounts of cash. Criminals have found ways to exploit the standalone machines commonly found in pharmacies, big-box retailers, and some drive-thru ATMs. It’s hard to know the exact financial implications because sometimes these crimes aren’t disclosed publicly, but any time money is missing, it’s sure to have an impact on the banks and ultimately you, the consumer, in the former of higher fees or more obstacles to accessing your cash.

Jury Duty Scams
Another new spoofing phone call scam has popped up and involves scammers posing as judicial officials or police and calling people to let them know they failed to report for jury duty and owe a fine. Scammers can spoof law enforcement phone numbers or names so people receiving the call may think that the call is legitimate. The FBI in Atlanta has received numerous complaints about the scam from people in and around the Savannah, Georgia area.

Medicare Card Scam
The Federal Government mailed out new Medicare cards that now have an 11-digit identification number instead of an enrollee’s Social Security number to help protect seniors from identity theft. About 59 million people will receive the cards with a requirement from Congress that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards by April 2019.  Because of the update, scammers are taking to the phones to try trick people into giving them their new 11-digit identification number so they can take over their identity. According to an Allianz survey, the elder financial abuse victims average loss was $36,000.

Netflix Scam
The popular service is the target of an email phishing scam featuring the subject line “payment declined,” which may get your attention if you are a subscriber. The email wants you to click on a link to update your credit card information.  If you see this don’t click on the link because it can be dangerous malware. Visit your Netflix account by typing the address in yourself to check your account as a safer means of verifying your account status.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Frauds and Scams

One of the most requested workshop we get from senior groups is on Frauds and Scams. We talk about the top ten scams in Canada. The top ten scams in Canada in 2017 were:
1.          Romance scam ($17 million lost)
2.          Wire Fraud — "Spearphishing:'' $13 million lost
3.          Identity fraud ($11 million lost)
4.          Online purchase scams ($8.6 million lost)
5.          Binary options scam ($7.5 million lost)
6.          Employment scam ($5.1 million lost)
7.          Canada revenue agency ($4.3 million lost)
8.          Fake lottery/contest winnings ($3 million lost)
9.          Advance fee loans ($1.1 million lost)
10.    Fake online endorsement and sponsored content

I thought it might be interesting to see what scams are being used by crooks in the United States that will soon come to Canada. So, over the next two posts, I will highlight some of the scams and frauds making the rounds in the US. The information about the scams in the US is from Senior Planet.

Scams are repeated because they work. The ones that work are often driven by financial life moments such as taxes, holiday shopping, and utility scams. Identity thieves and scammers often try new twists on old scams that worked in the past. So far this year, a number of different and new scams have made the news, listed here in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

Airbnb Scam
This scam involving users of the popular AirBnB site that lets travelers rent an apartment or house. The scam starts with an impostor home or apartment owner directing the renter towards a fraudulent or “spoof” website to finalize payment for the rental. Those fake sites result in lost money and no place to stay because the rental property being discussed is usually not even available. In fact, the real owners are most likely unaware that their property is being spoofed by scammers.

“Can You Hear Me” and “Yes” Calls
This scam happens when you answer the phone and the person on the other line asks: “Can you hear me?” and you respond, “Yes.” Your voice is being recorded to obtain a voice signature for scammers authorize fraudulent charges over the phone. You can visit the FCC website to block any unwanted calls. The BBB Scam Tracker received more than 10,000 reports on the ‘Can you hear me?’ scam, but none of the reports resulted in an actual loss of money.

Car Scams
The FBI shared information on a growing scam where crooks are targeting those looking to buy cars and other vehicles online. The FBI has received 26,967 complaints with losses totaling $54,032,396 since tracking this issue from May 2014 through December 2017. This car scam starts with a criminal posting an online advertisement with a low price to get the attention of a buyer, including photos of the vehicle and contact information. When a buyer reaches out, the “seller” sends more photos and what appears as a logical reason why the price is discounted and indicates a need to sell.

The criminal then instructs you to purchase prepaid gift cards in the amount of the sale and share the prepaid codes. You’re usually told you’ll receive the vehicle in a couple days. Then you don’t hear back from them again you’re left without your money and still in need of a car.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Falls and Medication

Senior Canadians tend to take more medications as they get older. But do you know how many?  Did you know that the proportion of Canadian seniors age 65 and older who take at least 5 different prescription medications is 66%? This includes Canadians who are living in the community only, and not in long-term care.
The proportion of community seniors taking at least 10 different prescription medications is 27% Finally, community seniors aged 85 and over who take at least 5 different prescription medications is 39%
Researchers have been investigating what happens when we take too many medications. The technical term for taking “too many medications” is polypharmacy—“poly” meaning many, and “pharmacy” meaning, related to medications.
Polypharmacy generally refers to being on more medications than needed, or for which harm outweighs the benefit. The more medications we take, however, the more likely we are to experience drug interactions, falls and fractures, memory problems, or worse, we can get hospitalized or even can die from the harms that can come from taking too many medications.
At our workshops on Medication Awareness, a question that is often asked is, “who is most at risk of experiencing harmful effects of medications?”
The answer is not a simple one, but to start with people with multiple chronic conditions often take many medications in order to manage these conditions. The issue is that when the researchers do the drug trails the people they pick for the trails are young healthy men. The other issue with drug trails is that the researchers only test one drug at a time. Taking many of prescriptions for multiple chronic diseases increases the risk of adverse effects because:
Drug-drug interactions and drug-disease interactions may have unpredictable effects on any another disease a person may have.
Sometimes, additional medications are prescribed to counteract the harmful effects of existing medications, which can exacerbate the problem.
Women are also more likely to be at risk of harms, due to both social and biological factors.
And finally, over the age of 65 (even though 65 isn’t really that old), we begin to become more susceptible to some of the harms or side effects of medications.
Here’s an interesting statistic in the context of Canada: 1 in 200 adults over the age of 65 is hospitalized due to the harmful effects of their medication. That’s 5 times higher for seniors than it is for younger people 
According to a study done by Canadian researchers released in 2016, Canadians spend $419M per year on medications classified as potentially inappropriate. This figure doesn’t include the cost of hospitalizations due to the harmful effects of these medications.
Canadians also spend $1.4 billion per year in health care costs to treat patients experiencing harmful effects from their medications, including fainting, falls, fractures and hospitalizations.
The risk of falls is also something I talk a lot about as people age. According to the Canadian Deprescribing Network, which is a group of healthcare leaders, clinicians, decision-makers, academic researchers and patient advocates working together to mobilize knowledge and promote the deprescribing of medication that may no longer be of benefit or that may be causing harm, 1 in 5 people over the age of 65 living in the community report having a fall within the past year. The prevalence of falls is even higher for older seniors (over age 80). For Canadian seniors, most hospitalizations from injuries are due to falls.
What most people don’t realize is that some medications can make you more likely to fall. As you can see from the following chart, sleeping pills increase the risk of falls by 47-57%. Antipsychotics often given to people with dementia, increase the risk of falls by, even more, 59%. Falls for seniors can be life-threatening and are something to be unconcerned about. Twenty to thirty percent of hip fracture patients die within one year of fracture? And that 95% of hip fractures occur during a fall?
There are a number of ways to prevent falls in our age group. First, don't be nervous or shy about talking to your physician about factors that may increase the risk of falling. Tell your doctor if you have fallen. Many falls go unreported but we know that one fall often is a prediction of others. It is important to stay mobile and to use assistance if it is needed. 
Other steps you can take to  prevent falling are:
Strengthen your muscles: exercise to strengthen your muscles, especially your legs, and improve your balance. There are many programs or activities that will help you achieve this. The recommended exercise prescription to prevent falls is at least 30 minutes per day.
Optimize your eyesight: have your vision assessed regularly by an optometrist. Correct problems (myopia, presbyopia, cataracts, etc.) as needed. Cataract surgery can reduce the risk of falls by up to 37%.
Create a safe environment: limit carpets that slide easily over floors and over which you may slip and fall, remove furniture that obstructs passageways, use adequate lighting. A safe environment can reduce the risk of falls by up to 20%
Discontinue medications that may increase the risk of falls: cleaning out medications that cause falls can reduce the risk of falls by about 25%.
Do not stop any medication without talking to your doctor or pharmacist.

                                         Drugs that increase the risk of Falling in Seniors