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A few tips for avoiding financial, health care scams

The FBI estimates that seniors lose $3 billion each year due to financial scams, but there are many ways to protect yourself against this common form of theft.

According to the National Council on Aging, older adults are often targets of scammers because of the belief they have larger reserves of cash. And anyone enrolled in an insurance program, including Medicare, can be a target of insurance fraud.

Shanna King, administrative services director at Salina Presbyterian Manor, has talked to residents who unintentionally shared private information, such as a Medicare number.

“Most folks trickle into the business office after they realize what happened,” she says. In the case of the resident who gave out their Medicare number, Shanna contacted a family member of the resident, who advised them to call Medicare to get a replacement card. Anyone can contact Medicare with questions about potential scams by calling 1-800 MEDICARE.

The key to responding to a potential scam is to act quickly to let people know what might have happened. The fact is, people of all ages fall victim to scams every day— it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We spoke to Debra Wood, a family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension— Central Kansas District, about how to avoid common scams.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says. If someone is pressuring you to act immediately, it’s safe to assume that’s a scam, too.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests asking for offers in writing and comparing prices before making any financial decisions. Reputable companies will allow you to take your time.

Debra suggests steering clear of trouble by not purchasing items that are advertised on television and not answering unknown phone calls.

To potentially cut down on the number of calls you receive, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests adding your number to the National Do Not Call List by calling (888) 382-1222. Debra also recommends using a spam blocking service if your phone carrier provides one.

If you do speak to someone on the phone, don’t give our person information, and take notes, Debra advises. Write down whom you spoke with, the time and day, and the nature of your conversation.

Similar commonsense advice is reiterated on in-house channel 1960 at Presbyterian Manor, which carries a reminder to “never give out your information to a caller,” Shanna notes.

If someone tries to scam you, the FTC also recommends letting your friends know. We can all use the reminder to be careful with our personal information.

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