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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 legitimate opportunities.

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.

12/15/23

 

 

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