Consumers have reported receiving calls or online solicitations for free medical cancer screening kits in exchange for Medicare information. While cheek swabs are used in common screenings for illnesses and genetics, unprompted and unsolicited calls or online advertisements for free cancer screening kits are a scam.
Phone. Often this
scam begins with a phone call, letting consumers know that their doctor has
referred them for a free cancer screening kit. The caller then asks for
Medicare information, claiming their insurance will cover the kit. The cancer
screening kit does normally arrive at the home of the consumer but it typically
does not go to a cancer screening facility, or if it does, consumers are
required to pay out of pocket.
Internet. This scam can
also originate as an online advertisement. The advertisement will state
consumers can receive a free cancer screening kit. Clicking on the
advertisement will bring consumers to a separate page to provide contact
information as well as insurance and Medicare accounts.
Signs to spot a cancer screening scam:
An unsolicited phone call or internet advertisement stating qualifications have been met for a free cancer screening kit.
The products claim Medicare or other insurance providers will cover the cost.
Often described as free in exchange for Medicare information
The seller claims a doctor has approved a referral for the cancer screening kit.
Personal identifiable information (Medicare information, Social Security Number, Date of Birth) is requested.
Never provide personal information over the phone or online if you’re unsure where this information is going or you were contacted without request. If you receive a cancer screening device without requesting one or provided your Medicare information to an unknown scammer, call Medicare right away to report fraud at 1-800-MEDICARE.
If you or anyone you know has engaged with a scam, please
contact the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424.
Contributing Editor: Alexandra Esposito Content Editor: Crystal Baldwin
It can be intimidating to receive phone calls that claim to be from the government. Some of these calls can be threatening, while others offer false opportunities for government grants or entitlements. Calls and scams impersonating the government have been on the rise since 2014. The IRS scam, impersonating the Internal Revenue Service, has ranked as the number one reported scam in Vermont since, making up 41% of the top scams reported to CAP in 2018. Last year, the social security number phishing scam (SSN), impersonating the Social Security Administration, was the second highest reported scam, making up 18% of the top scams. Together, the two government imposter scams were 59% of the top scams reported in Vermont. This year, the SSN scam is on track to be number one, with 755 already reported to CAP. Recognize common government impersonation scams.
SSN Phishing and IRS Scams
Identify It: Scammers claiming
to be government offices, like Social Security Administration or the Internal
Revenue Service may claim your SSN has been compromised, or that you have back
What to Know: It is
important to remember that these government agencies would never contact
you over the phone or through email. These agencies mail communications and
would never threaten you for information or payment over the phone.
Treasurer’s Office Scam
Identify It: Government
scams can come in many different forms other than the well-known IRS and SSN
scam. Recently, CAP has been notified about a scam call that claims to be from
the State Treasurer and that the recipient owes money related to student loan
What to Know: Spot this scam
by looking out for debt calls that threaten legal action if payment information
is not given.
Government Grant Scam
Identify It: Sometimes, government
impersonators claim that you are eligible for a federal grant. They say things
like, “Because you do not owe back taxes, you qualify for a government grant.”
What to Know: If you did not
apply for a grant, you shouldn’t be contacted.
You would never have to pay for fees or taxes before receiving a grant.
Watch out for false claims that you are entitled to something that you never
Spoofing Government Numbers
Identify It: Scammers may
sometimes use technology known as spoofing. This is when they mask their actual
phone number so that your caller ID will show you a different number entirely.
What to Know: Sometimes they
will use this to make their number look like they are coming from your area
code, while other times the caller ID on your phone may even show as “US
Government,” “IRS,” or “SS administration”.
If you suspect that you are being targeted by a scam, the
best thing you can do is not respond. If you answered the phone, then hang up.
If you have been emailed, do not respond. Do not call back any numbers that you
are given. Never give out your personal or financial information to an
unknown party claiming to be the government. If you are worried that some
claims may be legitimate, call the department directly, using a number
you know to be valid.
If you would like to report a scam or have any questions, please reach out to CAP by calling us at 1-800-649-2424 or emailing AGO.CAP@Vermont.gov
Scammers will say just about anything to get your money! Unfortunately, this includes pretending to be charities. For Military Consumer Month, we’d like to share some information about how you can securely give to legitimate charities who support our service members, and avoid scams.
If you receive a charity solicitation over the phone, ask questions!
As noted in our post from November 2018,
it’s important to do your homework before giving. Here are some steps you can
Research the cause before donating. Helpful websites, like Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Giving Wise Alliance (BBB), have information on charities.
Double-check solicitation mailing addresses and phone numbers. Ask fundraising callers to mail you the solicitation first, so that you can check the contact information.
Look for paid fundraiser information. A paid fundraiser is a third-party solicitation company that, aside from the fundraising campaign, is not affiliated with the charity. This means that a portion of the funds raised are split between the charity and the soliciting business. Vermonters can ask if a third-party fundraiser is involved. For information about paid fundraisers, see the “Charities” section on the CAP website.
Still unsure? If you receive a solicitation that seems suspicious, but just aren’t sure, give the Consumer Assistance Program a call: (800) 649-2424. We’re happy to help.
Contributing Writer: Madison Braz Content Editor: Crystal Baldwin
is military consumer month, and here at the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)
we hope to spotlight the most common type of scams affecting service members
and veterans— imposter scams.
Last year, more than 36,000 service
members, veterans, or family members reported
an imposter scam nationwide. Imposter
scams take a variety of forms. For example, some imposters say they
are calling to offer technical support or that they are from the Social
Security Administration, while others pose as friends or family members with an
emergency. The common thread is that they all involve a scammer pretending to
be a trustworthy person, to convince you to send money or personal information.
Here are some examples of common imposter scams:
scam: Scammers call and
pretend to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA). They say your
Social Security number (SSN) has been suspended because of suspicious activity
or it being involved in a crime.
What to do: Be wary of responding to unsolicited contacts, and never provide personal information to someone you don’t know. If you feel that your Social Security number has been compromised, call CAP for more information and visit identitytheft.gov to file a report.
Needy Friend or Relative
Scammers claiming to be
a grandchild, friend/relative or romantic interest contact consumer, reportedly
in distress and needing money to be wired or transmitted with a reloadable
card, gift card (like iTunes), PayPal account payment, cash or check/money
What to do: Call your friends or family members on
known phone numbers to ensure that they are safe. Never wire or otherwise send
funds unless you can verify the emergency.
The scam: A phone call or pop-up message on your computer claiming to
be from Microsoft/Windows or another well-known tech company. The scammers will
say that there’s a virus or other problem with your computer and try to
persuade you to give them remote access to resolve the issue.
to do: If you get a
phone call you didn’t expect from someone who says there’s a problem with your
computer, hang up. Never call a
number in a pop-up that warns you of computer problems. Real security warnings
will never ask you to call a phone number. Legitimate customer service information usually won’t display
as a pop-up. Companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google do not call you to
notify you of malware on your computer.
The scam: If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. Technology has made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world, and to hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information. The automated voice on the other end of the line may claim to be a utility, or government agency.
What to do: Hang up the phone, don’t call back, and do not provide any personal information.
The scam: Some
imposters contact you with an urgent need for money, and ask you to pay with gift cards
right away. The imposters will often tell you to go buy popular gift cards
(like, iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon) at a store near you. Once you buy the
gift cards, the callers will then demand the gift card number and PIN on the
back of the card. Those numbers provide the scammer with immediate access to
the money on the card. After you provide these numbers, the scammers typically disappear
without a trace.
Gift cards are
like cash—if you buy a gift card and someone uses it, you probably cannot get
your money back. Remember, gift cards are for gifts to people you know and
trust, not payments.
What to do: If
you paid a scammer with a gift card, call the company that issued the gift card
right away and alert CAP. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card
was used in a scam. Ask them if they can refund your money. If you act quickly
enough, the company might be able to get your money back. Also, tell the store
where you bought the gift card as soon as possible.
If ever you are unsure about a scam, give CAP a call. We take scam reports every day and are familiar with the type of scams out there, so can help issue spot the red flags when something suspicious arises. Call us at 800-649-2424.
Contributing Writer: Madison Braz Content Editor: Crystal Baldwin
“Nationally, of the 60+ age cohort, 1 in 10 adults experience some form of mistreatment each year.” National Center on Elder Abuse
“For every case of reported elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, about 23 instances go unreported.” VT Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Aging and Independent Living
Elder abuse occurs in many forms: physical
abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial
exploitation. Elder abuse can occur in any setting and can be by a person
or entity. There could be a preexisting relationship of trust—and in most
cases victims know their abuser—or a connection can be new.
Each of us can play an important role in preventing elder abuse. The first step is recognizing and identifying signs of abuse. These steps are outlined by the Attorney General’s Elder Protection Initiative and the Department of Aging and Independent Living in this linked release commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Knowing how to contact the agencies and organizations that can assist is essential to eliminating elder abuse. To simplify the reporting process, the following is a list of resources.
Suspected elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, including financial exploitation
If you are still not sure who to contact, call United Ways of Vermont 2-1-1 information and referral hotline (dial 211 or 802-652-4636). They are a great resource, connecting Vermonters to organizations and agencies. They have committed to enhancing their referral work specifically for calls related to elder abuse and exploitation.
We can all commit to ending elder abuse by serving those in our communities that may be preyed upon. Here, at the Consumer Assistance Program, to help prevent financial exploitation in scams, we distribute scam alerts and encourage recipients to share the information with friends, neighbors and loved ones. Anyone can sign up by calling us at 800-649-2424, or by visiting our website ago.vermont.gov/cap/stopping-scams. The Elder Protection Initiative has even more information on how you can help on the Get Involved page.