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By Terri Bryce Reeves
With the holidays behind us, phony scams like Letters from Santa, grandparent scares, fake charities, jobs and e-cards have slowed down temporarily.
But just when you thought it was safe to answer the phone or read email, here comes a presidential election year and an assortment of political scams and schemes as well.
Unfortunately, the Sunshine State dominates the nation when it comes to fraud, based on the number of crimes reported to the Federal Trade Commission over the past five years. Some of the most targeted areas include the Tampa Bay area, Miami, Cape Coral, Ocala, Orlando, Punta Gorda and Jacksonville, according to eligibility.com, which has compiled the numbers and created a map of states with the most fraud-impacted cities.
Scammers tend to target older adults as they often have more money saved than younger adults. Seniors lose an average of $34,200 when they are scammed, the site reports.
With fraud and scams so prevalent these days, what can we do to protect ourselves? Here are some tips on what to do to stay safe:
Stay informed by following the news. Or go to the FTC’s site, consumer.ftc.gov, which will alert you to the latest cons. Some of the biggest frauds this year included free genetic testing, unnecessary braces or medical devices, and people claiming to be from the Social Security Administration or Medicare. For more information on Medicare scams, visit eligibility.com/medicare/medicare-scam-report.
If someone offers a deal that sounds too good to be true, threatens you, uses fear tactics, says you owe the government money, or asks for personal information, end the conversation immediately.
Do your research
If you receive a call that seems suspicious, hang up, and then Google the caller’s phone number to see if anyone else has linked it to fraud. Keep in mind that Medicare and the Social Security Administration will never call you asking for personal identifying information like your social security or Medicare numbers. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from these organizations, hang up and call the organization’s main phone number. Ask the person who answers if the organization is trying to get in contact with you.
Finally, report any scams that target you to the FTC (www.ftc.gov) so they can track down these fraudsters. This step helps protect you and others in the future.