Phone Scams: Social Security, Grandchildren & Donations

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

While we’re all distracted by the coronavirus, here’s a gentle warning to remind your now housebound parents and grandparents about telephone scams. Recently the National Council on Aging reported the top three telephone scams for elders:

Social Security Spoofing Calls. In this scam, the caller may spoof the SSI hotline so caller ID looks legitimate, and then either threaten the listener or ask for help activating a suspended social security number. During the pandemic, Social Security is continuing to issue checks despite scammers indicating otherwise. Here’s the link from the SSI and guidance from Consumer Reports about what to do if you receive one of these calls.

The Grandparent Scam. In this scam, the caller indicates they’re a grandchild in an accident or legal trouble and ask for cash or gift cards.

Donations following Natural Disasters. This scam takes advantage of donations that follow a natural disaster – or a pandemic – with the caller impersonating charities asking for money or, if the listener is in the area impacted, offering help.

If your family wants to donate to organizations during this time of crisis, use a site like Charity Navigator to check on their validity.

Another scam reported recently is one offering a free coronavirus test kit for Tricare and Medicare beneficiaries. Concerned families should check with their physician for testing.

Many elders already avoid answering their telephones from unknown callers. I asked a class full of tech-savvy business leaders for guidance on how best to block access from telemarketers and spammers. Two companies were mentioned: Ooma, a home phone service that provides multiple ways to block spam calls and Nomorobo although online reviews have been mixed. I’ve attached a useful video from The Verge about robocalls and how to stop them.

Share what works for you and your family.