Don't let a scam ruin your summer, or worse

Seniors must be diligent and not give out Social Security numbers or credit card information to telephone or email inquiries. Here are some of the latest scams.

Medicine/service scam

Scammers are looking to steal Medicare numbers and financial information from unsuspecting consumers. The victim receives an unsolicited telephone call or email offering free diabetes testing or other medical supplies. The scammer then asks for the victim’s Medicare number and address. Once the scammers have the Medicare number they can steal the victim’s identity and order health care services in the victim’s name.

Review your Medicare statement to assure the billing is correct. If there are multiple billings for the same item or charges for items or services you did not order or receive, contact the Medicare fraud hotline.

Profiling consumers

Scammers are offering lottery sweepstakes to consumers in order to collect information on potential victims. In the profiling scam, the caller or emailer do not ask for money or personal information; rather, they ask more general questions about the consumer’s financial history, such as recent purchases, loans or investments.

Scammers inform consumers that they are eligible for an available, unclaimed prize or lottery. The scammer then asks for the consumer to pick a number to see if they have won.

Later, the scammer calls back to let the consumer know they have won the lottery prize. The scammer may ask for money to cover taxes or fees associated with the prize; or they may ask a general financial question to establish a victim profile. Once more, do not share personal information with any callers or mailers.

Funeral emails or calls

Scammers are sending fraudulent “funeral notice” emails to victims, betting the recipient will be curious or grief-stricken enough to click on an embedded link in the hope of getting information about their friend or relative’s “celebration of life” service. But instead of providing information on memorial services, the link enables the computer to be hijacked.

Once the reader clicks on the link, the computer becomes infected with software that can steal personal and financial information and send it to other computers and send spam email out on your behalf without your knowledge.

Should one of these messages appear in your inbox, don’t click on it, but click “delete”. If you want to verify the information about a person’s death, you can call the funeral home to verify the information.

If you are computer-literate, it is a good idea to make sure your computer’s firewall and virus protection are up to date, always active and you have a good pop-up advertising blocker installed.

If you are less computer-literate, like me, do not click on any email you do not recognize. Just click “delete”. Never let curiosity kill the cat.

Debt collectors

Debt collection agents, by law, are required to provide written documentation of the debt, including its amount, the creditor and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the caller is unwilling to provide this information, hang up and call the state Attorney General Consumer Office.

Never pay an unsolicited caller via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. It is a scam.

Jury duty

Scammers call their victims and give the name of a police department officer. The scammer tells the target a warrant has been issued because they failed to show up for jury duty. To avoid arrest, the fake cop tells the target to go to Wal-Mart and buy a prepaid debit card. The cards cannot be traced, and the funds can immediately be withdrawn. Scammers are calling from blocked numbers and using tactics such as keeping the victim on the phone until the transaction is complete.

It should be remembered the Alaska Court System does not collect money from anyone who missed jury duty and does not send police to people’s homes to collect unpaid fines for failing to serve as a juror.

Pending legal cases

Victims receive an email claiming the recipient has a court case or a legal issue in Alaska pending and give a false date for a court hearing. If you receive such an email, do not click on the link. Delete it and called the Clerk of Court, 264-0609.

If you are involved in litigation and are computer-literate, you can check on your case on Court View.


We can minimize our exposure to being a victim by being vigilant and less curious. If you get a telephone call and do not know the caller, never share information. Either hang up or get the caller’s name and number and call back.

If you receive an email from someone you do not know, delete it. Never accept emails from an unknown source; if you do, you are allowing unknown entities access to your computer.

Leonard Kelley is the Older Persons Action Group, Inc. board president.