Excerpted from the 2013 AARP Almanac
The Sweepstakes Swindles
Sweepstakes and lottery scams are a 365-day concern for older Americans, who are specifically targeted — and most likely to fall victim. Here's how these scams work: You receive a series of letters and emails notifying you that you're a winner. The problem is, you're requested to pay processing fees or expenses to receive your jackpot and to "prove" your identity by providing personal information prized by identity thieves.
Here's what you should know:
• If you didn't enter, you didn't win. Period.
• You never have to pay anything upfront to redeem a legitimate prize.
• If you receive a partial-payment check for winning, it's a scam.
• Foreign lotteries are not open to U.S. residents.
• Never provide personal information such as a driver's license or passport number.
• It's a scam if the fine print lacks any of the following info: start and end dates; judging date; methods of entry, including judging criteria; type of proof of purchase required; description of prizes and approximate retail values; legal disclaimers; and sponsor's name and address.
The "Help Me, Grandma!" Scam
As spring break begins for many college students, con artists behind the notorious Grandparents Scam get to work. You may get a call that a beloved grandchild was arrested, hospitalized or has endured some other hardship that requires your money.
The usual request: Send a wire transfer (for bail, hospital bills, meal or travel expenses) to somewhere in the United States or abroad. Don't take the bait. Thousands of other loving grandparents have — and in the process lost millions of dollars with their good intentions. Authenticate any claims of a grandchild's alleged trouble by calling the home or cellphone number to ensure all is fine. If the caller alleges to be a lawyer, police officer or doctor "helping" a grandchild in need, a five-minute online search can verify the reported law firm, police station or hospital for a callback on your part.
The "Dialing for Diabetics" Diversion
Have you received a phone call telling you that you qualify for free or discounted medical supplies for diabetes, heart disease or other conditions? Pay attention to that caller's next line: "Before the supplies can arrive, I need to confirm your condition with your age, Social Security number and the name and phone number of your doctor." It's another scammer out to steal your identity.