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Celebrating Seniors & Protecting Them from Fraud
National Senior Citizens Day is celebrated on August 21st. It is a day set
aside to recognize the contributions, services, and dedication they have given
throughout their lives.
By 2020, Florida is expected to have a population exceeding 23.5 million with
over 28 percent of that population being over the age of 60. Seniors comprise
the state's second largest economic sector contributing a $2.8 billion net tax
benefit after all services are rendered. Florida's seniors donate $3.5 billion
to charities in addition to donating their time and talents in their
senior citizens are also a prime target for con artists perpetrating any number
of scams. Seniors are generally hesitant to report when they have been a victim
of fraud, and many times the cases are difficult to prosecute. However, informed
seniors-like any other consumer-can protect themselves from scammers, and that
is where the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)
FDACS is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection, and
information. The department provides a variety of resources to protect Florida
consumers and ensures they have the information they need to make informed
decisions. In that spirit, here is a brief recap of some of the top scams
IRS Phone Scam Scammers claim that an individual owes back
taxes and penalties, and say that unless the person pays immediately, they
could be arrested or have their home foreclosed on.
- Sweepstakes Scam Fraudsters call
or email victims and tell them they've won the lottery and just need to pay
a fee to collect their winnings.
- Social Security Scam Scammers
either phone or email consumers, claiming to represent the Social Security
Administration and ask consumers for personal information, such as their
Social Security number, date of birth or bank account information.
Support Scam Fraudsters pretend they work for a well-known tech
company like Microsoft or Dell. They claim the consumer's computer has been
infected with a virus, and then try to get remote access to the computer, as
well as access to the victim's credit card or bank account information so
that they can bill them for fixing the alleged problem.
Scam Fraudsters pretend to be the victim's grandchild and claim
they need money to get themselves out of an emergency, such as being
arrested. Or they may claim to have kidnapped the senior's grandchild and
ask for ransom.
- Medicare Scam Scammers pose as
Medicare representatives to get seniors to give them their personal
information or pay for unnecessary services.
Scam Fraudsters contact seniors through an online dating site
or other kinds of social media. Once they've struck up a relationship, they
ask for money, perhaps to pay for a trip to visit the senior or to cover
some kind of emergency, like medical costs.
Seniors are encouraged to get educated on what frauds are out there and to
remain vigilant at all times.
Here are some tips on how to protect yourself and avoid being scammed.
- Know who you're dealing with. Independently
verify any information you are provided.
the safest way. You can dispute credit card charges
if you never get the goods or services.
- Guard your personal information.
- Stay safe online. Don't send
sensitive information unless you are sure the website is secure.
- Be cautious about unsolicited emails.
pressure. Legitimate companies and charities will be happy to
give you time to talk with trusted advisors and make an informed decision.
- Don't believe promises of easy
- Fully understand the offer.
- Check your bank accounts and credit reports
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department's
consumer protection and information hotline by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352)
or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) for Spanish speakers or visit us online at
Scams involving your Social Security number &
benefits are on the rise!
Here are the facts:
employees will not threaten to take away benefits or ask for money or
personal information to protect your Social Security card.
- Scammers can fake your caller ID. So don't be fooled if the call seems
to be from the SSA's real phone number (800) 772-1213 or the SSA Inspector
General's Fraud Hotline number.
- If a caller asks for your Social Security number, bank account number or
credit card information, hang up.
suspected scams to the SSA Inspector General at (800) 269-0271 or
IdentityTheft.gov/SSA for more tips.
Information provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
In collaboration with: the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security
Don't Be Tricked into Buying Free Government Forms
Companies that sell free government forms or persuade businesses they must file
unnecessary paperwork have operated in Florida for several years. These
companies send out mailers that mislead hard-working small business owners into
paying unnecessarily to file corporate minutes or purchase posters that are
available for free from the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, some
companies target students and persuade them into unnecessarily paying for forms
that are available for free from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Government Imposter and Deceptive Advertisement Act (GIDAA) was
enacted to protect individuals and businesses from being defrauded by
companies that sell free government forms or impersonating government
GIDAA prohibits these companies from using mailings, emails, or websites that
target Floridians without prominent disclaimers stating that the sales materials
are not related to any government filing and/or that the information or forms
can be obtained free of charge. If forms are being offered, the disclaimer must
also include the phone number of the agency that provides these documents for
Additionally, GIDAA prohibits sending or posting online any advertisement
that simulates a court summons, complaint, jury notice or other judicial
document. Also prohibited is falsely representing that a company or offer is:
- part of or associated with a government entity,
- approved, authorized or endorsed by a government entity,
- or from a government entity.
Violations could result in substantial civil fines and/or administrative
fines up to $10,000 per violation. Additionally, GIDAA gives individuals and
businesses the right to bring an action to enforce the act and seek punitive
damages and attorneys' fees and costs.
Consumers and businesses are requested to report suspected violations to the
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Visit
FloridaConsumerHelp.com to file a complaint or call 1-800-HELP-FLA
(435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Espaρol for more information.
Debt Collection Scams
are very good at impersonating legitimate businesses. It is for this reason that
you should be careful if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a debt
collector, even if they have a lot of personal information about you. It may be
a con artist running a "phantom debt collector" scam.
Keep the following tips in mind if you have been called by debt collectors:
- Debt collection scams often involve callers claiming to be federal and
state agents, investigators, or members of a law firm. Hang up and call the
organization in question directly.
- Beware of debt collectors who refuse to give you a mailing address or
phone number, ask you for sensitive personal and financial information,
refuse to give you information about your debt, or are trying to collect a
debt that you do not recognize.
your credit report. If the debt the caller claims you owe is not listed on
there, it's probably a scam.
- Inform the caller that you will not discuss any debt until you receive
written proof of the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
requires debt collectors to send written notice with the amount owed and the
name of the creditor within five days of contacting you.
- According to FDCPA, a debt collector must stop calling you if you ask
them in writing. A debt collector may begin to contact you again if they
provide you with a written verification of the debt, such as a copy of a
bill for the amount you owe.
Consumers or businesses that need information can contact the Consumer
Assistance Center, which is staffed with trained analysts who answer questions
on almost any topic. Find more information at
FloridaConsumerHelp.com or by calling the Consumer Assistance Center at
1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).
FTC Settlement with Facebook
New privacy structure at Facebook.
New tools for FTC to monitor Facebook.
Source: Federal Trade Commission | FTC.gov
On July 24, 2019,
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it had reached a settlement agreement
with Facebook, Inc. imposing an historic penalty and significant requirements on
the social media giant to boost accountability and transparency. The company
will pay a record-breaking $5 billion penalty and submit to new restrictions,
and a modified corporate structure that will hold the company accountable for
the decisions it makes about its users' privacy and to settle FTC charges that
Facebook, Inc. violated a 2012 FTC order by deceiving users about their ability
to control the privacy of their personal information.
FTC.gov for more information.
Florida's A-Z Resource Guide
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
has created the "A
- Z Resource Guide" to help Floridians find the most
appropriate agency to contact for various issues. The
"A-Z Resource Guide" is available online at
FreshFromFlorida.com. The services offered to
consumers are listed in alphabetical order, in addition
to a search function that provides information about the
regulatory agency and statutes, if applicable. This
resource guide is available in English and Spanish.
The department assists consumers regardless of
whether we regulate the specific business or industry.
If your complaint falls within our jurisdiction, we
attempt to resolve your dispute and evaluate the
business for compliance with applicable statutes. If
your complaint is filed against a business that is not
regulated by any federal, state or local government
entity, we will attempt informal mediation to resolve
the dispute. In the event that the complaint falls
within another agency's jurisdiction, we will refer it
to that agency.
Before engaging in services with a business, it's
also a good idea to research the business to see if it
has any complaints filed against it and, if so, how they
were resolved. To do this, consumers can utilize the "Business/Complaint
Lookup" feature on our website.
Click to View
The Division of Food Safety
monitors food from the point of manufacturing
and distribution through wholesale and retail
sales to ensure the public of safe, wholesome
and properly represented food products.
The Consumer Product Safety
Commission provides consumer product recall
information as part of the agency's mission to
protect consumers and families from hazardous
The Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services is the state's clearinghouse for
consumer complaints, protection, and information.
Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact
the department's consumer protection and information
hotline by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for
Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) or visit us