Financial Wellness for Those with a Disability: Avoiding Scams
Scams are everywhere these days, and unfortunately, those with a
disability aren’t in any way immune. In fact, those with physical challenges
are sadly often explicitly targeted because of their disability. While new
versions of scams always pop up, similar techniques are at play. Here are some
common deceptions and ways to sidestep those looking to prey on you.
Scam 1: Application help
Applying for benefits can be tense, full of complicated forms, strict
documentation requirements, and unsure whether the application will even be
approved. Unprincipled people will try to take advantage of this by offering to
help you apply for benefits. They end up simply rerouting your benefits to
their account. If you don’t have a friend or family member to help you with the
process, contact the Social Security Administration for assistance.
Scam 2: Bogus equipment
Someone’s knocking on your door. They somehow knew of your condition, and
they’re at your residence now to offer you a very special limited-time offer of
special equipment to help with your specific needs. They even have a fancy
brochure full of glossy, full-color pictures of nice-looking stuff. They only
need a deposit to ship the equipment to you at the special rate. Now’s the time
to respectfully say goodbye and close the door. There’s no equipment, and your
money will be gone forever.
Scam 3: Catfishing
This con involves a person creating a fake identity online to pretend to fall
in love with you and then ask you to send money for a family crisis, travel
expenses, gifts, etc. Avoid this pitfall by never providing money to a person
you haven’t met in-person.
Scam 4: Prizes
Requesting personal information in exchange for some kind of windfall is a
common theme in fraudulent scenarios. Your best way to stay safe is to make it
a personal rule never to give out your Social Security number, account details,
or any other potentially sensitive information unless you have initiated the
contact after carefully researching to ensure you are talking with the party
you think you are.
In a variation on the “You’re a winner!” scam, the person will
inform you that you need to pay the taxes or money transfer fees to receive
your winnings. Bottom line: There are no contests you win without entering and
no legitimate ones who will ask you to send money to receive your prize.
Scam 5: Job offers or training
In this deception, you’re notified that you qualify for a program that will
help you upgrade your professional skills so you can work from home. All you
need to do—the thief claims—is pay a small fee for specialized training or
resources for performing the work. If you’re interested in earning additional
income, AbilityOne.gov is an excellent resource for learning more about
Scam 6: Impersonating government employees
This hoax involves a call or email by a person pretending to work for the
federal or state government and offering to upgrade or protect your benefits.
The perpetrator often tries to create a sense of urgency by claiming, “Your
benefits will expire if you don’t update your personal information!” The goal
of this criminal tactic is to get you to divulge your personal data so the
crook can steal your identity.
The government will never make unsolicited calls asking you for
your personal details. It just doesn’t work that way.
Responding to fraud
If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud, file a police report immediately
and contact your financial institution(s) to change your account numbers and
passwords. While you’re at it, list all websites you use that require a
password and update those too.
Review your accounts and credit reports from annualcreditreport.com to look for any other signs of intrusions into your existing accounts or the presence of new accounts opened in your name. For an extra layer of protection, put a freeze on each of your credit reports at Equifax.com, Experian.com, and TransUnion.com, respectively. This action will block access to your credit files, making it much tougher for an identity thief to open an account in your name.
Reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission at
IdentityTheft.gov will generate an FTC Identity Theft Report, which will come
in handy as you work to unravel the mess made by the perpetrator of the fraud.
If your losses are significant enough or the crime is incredibly complex, you
may want to hire an attorney.
Protecting yourself in the future
Here are some good habits to get into to guard yourself from suspicious activity further:
- Only give out your personal or account information if you have initiated the contact using the information you know to be legitimate.
- Always be OK with saying, “I’d prefer to call your organization back at a number I know to be real, instead of discussing this with you now.”
- Check your checking and credit card accounts regularly for signs of suspicious activity.
- Regularly research the latest scams online to keep yourself informed.
- Slow down your decision-making and get a second opinion from a trusted friend or family member.
- If something seems fishy, check with your financial institution. Credit unions and banks take great lengths to guard against fraud, so they know the ins and outs.
- Never open attachments or click on links in emails unless they are from someone you know.