A Look Back at the Most Nefarious Scams of 2018

Posted on 01/16/19 by Stacia Dahl

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Millions of Americans rely on Social Security and Medicare, and unfortunately, scammers often try to take advantage of that for their own gain. In our look back at trending scams of 2018, we look at two involving these programs, as well as scams involving gift cards as a form of payment.

  • The Social Security Impostor Scam: This new scam burst onto the scene in the latter half of 2018. A caller claiming to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) says there is an issue with your benefits and that you must provide personal and financial information to release your payment. If you have caller ID, the call may even appear to come from the SSA’s toll-free number. This is a scam. SSA does not operate this way and will typically only call you if you have already been in contact with the agency about a particular matter.
  • New Medicare Cards Scam: In early 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began issuing new Medicare cards to all beneficiaries. Scammers have been taking advantage of this development. A scammer may call and ask you to “verify” some personal information before sending your new card. Or, the crook will claim someone has already tried to misuse your new Medicare card and that you need to provide your personal information to make sure you’re the actual beneficiary. Other impostors try to collect a processing fee for the new card or ask you for bank account information so the government can pay a refund it owes you for transactions on the old card. What they really want, of course, is to get your Social Security number for purposes of identity theft or to access to your bank account so they can steal from it. New cards are still being rolled out, so beware that these scams are still afoot. An unsolicited call from Medicare – as with most government agencies, is most likely a scam.
  • Gift cards as a form of payment: Recently, more and more scams involve receiving payment in the form of a gift card. You may receive a call that you neglected to pay taxes and need to pay “the IRS” immediately or face arrest. Or you may get a call about an “overdue utility bill” and face an immediate shutoff. Or a “family member” in distress may call you requesting immediate financial help. The common thread here is that the scammer will ask you to go to a nearby retailer, buy a gift card in the amount you owe, and then ask you to share the numbers and PIN from the back of the card. Once you share those numbers, the scam is over. You will never hear from the caller again, and you won’t see the money you paid for the gift cards again, either. Remember, gift cards can be used only to purchase products and services.  No government entity will accept – let alone ask for – a gift card as a form of payment. Nor will a utility company or any other legitimate business.

As always, remain vigilant. You have the power to protect yourself and your family from scams!

P.S. Spotted a scam?  Tell us about it.  Our scam-tracking map gives you information about the latest scams targeting people in your state.  You’ll also find first-hand accounts from scam-spotters who are sharing their experiences so you know how to protect yourself and your family.

This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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