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Contra Costa Senior Legal Services Recognizes National Fraud Awareness Week

This week is National Fraud Awareness Week. According to the National Council on Aging, scams directed at seniors are on the rise.1 While people of all ages fall victim to fraud, seniors can be especially susceptible to fraud and scams.

The unfortunate thing about scams it that often, there is no way to recover the lost money. This means that education and prevention are crucial tools for addressing elder fraud and scams. Let’s use this year’s National Fraud Awareness Week to educate ourselves so we can stop scams before they happen.

Scammers and fraudsters are crafty and they are always coming up with new scams. The following scams and fraud are trending now:

Romance Scams

Romance scams are very common right now. These scams are often perpetrated over social media or dating websites. With this scam, you meet someone online who charms and woos you. Often times, the scammer will suggest that you move your communications to a private channel. This person that you’ve met is never able to meet in person. They may tell you that they are overseas working. They may tell you that they are working on an oil rig, as a doctor, or in the military. Eventually, this person asks you to send money via an untraceable method, such as wire transfer. They may also ask you to share your bank account or other personal information with them. Romance scams are one of the costliest scams for seniors. Be wary of anyone who romances you online but is never able to meet in person. Also be suspicious of anyone who asks you to send money via an untraceable method, such as a wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.

Fake Refund Scams

With fake refund scams, the scammers will tell you that they have accidentally deposited X amount of dollars in to your bank account. You are told that you must refund them that money, often via wire transfer. In reality however, the scammers have simply accessed your bank account and moved your own money between different accounts to make it look like one of your accounts has received a new deposit. Be wary of anyone who tells you that they have accidentally given you money and who says that you must refund the money via an untraceable method, such as wire transfer.

Tech Support Scams

With this kind of scam, the scammer will tell you that there is some kind of problem with your computer and they can fix this problem. The scammer might tell you this over email, over the phone, or the message may come as a pop up message on your device. In all these scenarios, the message is unsolicited. The scammer will ask you for remote access to your computer. Once they gain access, they steal your personal information and access your bank account or other accounts. Be wary of any unsolicited messages that tell you that there is a problem with your technology and do not respond to these messages. If you are concerned about your device, take that device to a trusted computer repair person in your community and ask them to clarify whether there is in fact a problem with your device.

 

Energy Company Fraud

One type of fraud happening now involves utilities. Often this fraud involves solar companies, but it can involve other types of utilities, such as natural gas. With this scheme, the fraudsters go door to door and offer a product like solar panels. They often lie about the benefits or impact of their services or products. They may make fake promises and offer false incentives to you, such as promises that they will pay you, that PG&E will pay you, that you’ll earn money from their product or service, or that you will not have to pay anything. The fraudsters may have you sign a contact using DocuSign, a digital platform for signing documents, and then never give you a copy of the contact. They may install solar panels onto your home that do not work or that are faulty. You can wind up being on the hook to pay for solar panels for many years and having auto deductions from your checking account. Be wary of anyone who comes to your door and gives you an unsolicited offer for solar panels or another product or service related to your utilities.

Signs of Scams and Fraud

Scams and fraud share many qualities. Learn to recognize these qualities so that you can spot different types of scams and fraud. The following are signs of a scam:

  • Asks you to keep it a secret from anyone else
  • Asks you to send money via Bitcoin, wire transfer, MoneyPak cards, or any type of gift card
  • Asks you to claim a package or participate in a survey for a free gift
  • Pressures you to make the deal right then and there
  • Asks you to “confirm” your social security number of other private information
  • Threatens that you will be sued or go to jail if you do not pay
  • You have to pay money to get money
  • Seems too good to be true

How to Protect Yourself from Fraud

 

Keep the following in mind when doing business:

  • Do your homework first and make sure anyone you hire is licensed and reputable
  • Only do business with those who are local
  • Insist on and check out referrals
  • Never respond to someone who comes to your door or calls you with an offer
  • If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Get multiple bids for jobs from established businesses
  • Don’t rush and beware because rarely is there a reason for an offer that is “good for today only”
  • Don’t accept work from an unlicensed contractor
  • Don’t allow work to be without a contract that specifies materials used, a completion date, and a fair payment schedule that pays for work as completed
  • Never hire an unlicensed contractor
  • Don’t pay a down payment before work begins if that down payment exceeds $1,000 or 10% of the contact price, whichever is less

Where to Report a Scam

If you are scammed, you should always report the scam regardless of the amount of money that you lost. Follow this checklist when reporting a scam:

  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, regardless of dollar loss ic3.gov
  • Contact local law enforcement
  • Contact your financial institution (bank, credit union, etc.)
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau http://www.consumerfinance.gov/
  • Federal Trade Commission go
    v

If you are a victim of fraud or you have a question about whether something is a scam, call Contra Costa Senior Legal Services for assistance at (925) 609-7900.

Additional Resources

https://ncoa.org/older-adults/money/management/avoiding-scams

https://consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes

1 NCOA, https://www.ncoa.org/article/top-5-financial-scams-targeting-older-adults.

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9-8-8 Crisis Line Now Live in CA

phone

 

As of July 16th, there is a new option available to all California residents for mental health support. Dial 988 to connect to a mental health crisis hotline open 24/7. Government officials anticipate this number will be much easier to remember than prior phone numbers and will hopefully catch on like 911 currently is recognized for other kinds of emergencies.

In related news, our local Assemblymember for the 16th District, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, is working on passing AB 988, the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act, which would add on funding for mobile crisis response teams across California. People experiencing a mental health crisis would be able to have access to trained healthcare professionals as part of responding to their emergency.

 

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Contra Costa Senior Legal Services Celebrates National Disability Independence Day

July 26 is National Disability Independence Day. On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. One of the most important civil rights bills ever passed, this landmark law prohibits discrimination against people who have a disability. The law guarantees the right of persons with disabilities to access transportation, employment, education, buy goods and services, and participate in programs and services run by state and local governments. The law is important because it allows people who have disabilities to participate more fully in American society. (more…)

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Understanding Self-Neglect

When we think of elder abuse, we tend to imagine a senior being mistreated by a cruel and heartless abuser. While many elder abuse cases do involve scenarios like this, the one of the most common forms of elder abuse is self-neglect. Yes, self-neglect is a form of elder abuse. Between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, Adult Protective Services of Contra Costa County received more reports for self-neglect than it did for any of other form of elder abuse, with 2,479 allegations of self-neglect reported. The second most common form of elder abuse reported was financial abuse, with only 1,218 reports made.

What is Self-Neglect?

You’re probably wondering what self-neglect is. Self-neglect is different than other forms of elder abuse in that there is no malign third party perpetrating the abuse. Rather, self-neglect occurs when an older adult behaves in a way that threatens their own personal health and/or safety. Typically, self-neglect happens when an elder does not meet their personal needs with regards to the provision of sufficient food, shelter, water, hygiene, clothing, and medical care, including medication. Self-neglect can also occur when an older adult fails to take steps to ensure their own safety. (more…)

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Changes to Medi-Cal

Asset Limits

 

The asset limits for certain Medi-Cal programs will be increased starting July 1, 2022.1  The asset limits starting July 1st will be: $130,000 for a single individual, $195,000 for a couple, and $65,000 for each additional family member up to ten in a household.2   California is expected to get rid of the asset limitations completely by January 1, 2024.

There have not been changes on asset limits since 1989.  Those that receive SSI benefits or another form of public benefits will still need to abide by the asset limitations set under those programs. (more…)

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Cryptocurrency scams and the LGBTQIA+ Community

What is cryptocurrency?  Cryptocurrency is an encrypted data string that indicates a unit of currency.  Cryptocurrencies are not issued by governments or financial institutions, nor are their values managed by a central authority.  These units of currency can be bought, sold, and transferred.

While this new form of currency is exciting for many, unfortunately it presents a new avenue for scammers.  Recent reports also shows that these cryptocurrency scams impact the LGBTQIA+ community at a higher rate. (more…)

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Juneteenth

 

palm

Sunday, June 19th, was Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery. While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, federal troops did not arrive to Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and to make sure that all enslaved people were free, until June 19th, 1865.1 This date honors the end of slavery in the United States and is now also a federal holiday.

For years Juneteenth commemorations have featured live music, barbeques, and prayers, among many other activities. The commemorations quickly spread throughout the nation following the migration of Black people from Texas to other parts of the country.

Juneteenth is a celebration, but also a reminder of the racial justice work that still needs to be accomplished to tear down slavery’s lasting legacy. Juneteenth also presents an opportunity to learn about Black history. The National Museum of African American History and Culture has curated a reading list. Click here if you want to learn more about Juneteenth and African American cultural traditions.

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Today is National Eat Your Vegetables Day

Vegetables

In celebration of National Eat Your Vegetables Day (6/17), here is a reminder of the many benefits of including vegetables in your daily diet.  Not only are vegetables a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they also improve your health, especially as you age.[1]  Vegetables can benefit digestive health, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and even provide diabetes control.

The daily vegetable intake recommendation for those over 60 years old is about 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.[2] Supplementing your diet with both vegetables and fruit can also keep your eyes healthy as you age.  Studies show that eating vegetables and fruit may prevent aging related eye diseases, like cataracts and macular degeneration.[3]

Food banks and farmers’ markets are a great place to get your nutrient filled vegetables.  Click here for a list of food banks in Contra Costa County.  Click here for a list of farmers’ markets in the county.

[1] https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-vegetables

[2] https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables

[3] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/

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Contact Us

2702 Clayton Rd.
Suite 202

Concord, CA 94519
(925) 609-7900
legalhelp@ccsls.org

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Our Mission

The mission of CCSLS is to protect the rights of seniors. By providing legal services, the organization is also able to mediate poverty and improve health outcomes for the population it serves. Lawyers are uniquely qualified to help identify and address legal issues that impede the ability of seniors to remain healthy and independent.