Every day seems to bring a new alert on the news about scams targeting the elderly, college kids or other specific groups. People with disabilities may find themselves targeted more frequently than others, and the fraudsters are often savvy, believable liars who use shame to keep those they defraud from speaking against them.
The government and media are working to spread the news about these dangers. Here’s a list of scams that regularly target individuals with disabilities to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Remember that you can report scammers and request investigations at any time through USA.gov.
These are some of the more insidious scammers out there. They show up at your door purporting to sell products that can make your life easier. Some take the time to scope out your home and notice your use of a cane, wheelchair or special parking permit. The door-to-door salesmen often use two strategies.
The first strategy they employ is purporting to sell a high-end, expensive product with a minimal cash or check deposit the same day. They may offer you a $2,000 mobility scooter or lift installation in your vehicle for only $250. They’ll cut that price down to $200 if you pay cash or with a check right then. It sounds too good to be true, and it almost always is. They’ll take your deposit and never return, and they trust that you’ll be too embarrassed to report them.
The second strategy follows the first, but they’re selling overpriced goods like bathroom bars and explaining the price discrepancy (should you note it) as an installation fee. A $10 bar installed using suction cups in your bathroom should never be priced at $50 or $100. They sell dollar-store canes for $25 and mobility assistance equipment at markups of 250 percent or more.
Combat these two tactics by always taking photos and requesting the ID of anyone claiming to be this type of salesman. Never pay a deposit upfront, and walk away if they start using high-pressure sales tactics. Take the time to compare prices and let them know you’ll get back to them. If you feel pressured or bullied, threaten to call the police right away. Ask for a business card, and call the police or file a report as soon as they leave.
Freelance jobs are out there, and many of them allow those with limited mobility the freedom to work from home. This is especially valuable as not all employers know how to work with individuals confined to wheelchairs or dealing with limited mobility. Unfortunately, scammers love to prey on those who are looking for unconventional work. Most are content to steal your identity and sell it on the black market after you’ve provided your name, Social Security number and address. Some want upfront cash as a finder’s fee or headhunting fee for getting you the job.
The work-at-home scam violates the writer’s creed known as Yog’s Law. This creed states that “money flows toward the writer.” You should never be asked to pay for a list of online jobs (which was probably created with a google search) or pay an upfront fee to work. Legitimate headhunters may take a small portion (15 percent is common) of your proceeds if you agree to work with them, but that comes off of your income and is never paid upfront.
Always verify. Check out the website and Better Business Bureau rating of anyone claiming to get you a work from home job, especially if they expect payment for the service. Ask for more details about the job and how they secure your information. If you ever feel unsure, contact the local authorities to have them do a check. As with door-to-door salesmen, don’t feel pressured to act right away. Take the time to do the research.
Fraudulent Medical Claims
You may have gotten a call, a door-to-door visit or an email from someone who says they understand what you’re going through, and they want you to do a clinical trial or sample medication. They’ll even give you a free sample for up to 30 days if you subscribe to an ongoing payment plan on the spot.
The Food and Drug Administration warns about this type of scam regularly. Often, the purported “miracle cure” has no benefits whatsoever and is classified as a supplement and not FDA-approved or even investigated by the FDA. Dubious claims are a dime a dozen, and often testimonials are paid for at about that rate. Always talk with your doctor as some of these supplements could even impair the efficiency of any medication you’re currently taking. They could even cause drug conflicts and lead to severe injury over time.
You’ve probably gotten the email: Send a person in Nigeria (or some other far-flung place) a small sum and he’ll give you a fortune. Maybe you won a distant lottery, or you’ve been identified as the last survivor of a WWII veteran from overseas. You may have even gotten a mailed letter or a call with this type of scam. These are almost always scams and they’re so common that they’re called 419 scams, named after the Nigerian criminal code that protects against this type of behavior.
The 419 scam is another insidious practice that relies on the embarrassment of victims to protect the scammer. Modern versions include friends or family members suddenly calling from foreign lands, where you never knew they’d be and requesting wire transfers of money. If you get these calls, emails or letters, disconnect and call the authorities. If you are concerned about a friend or family member, call them directly — or call someone who would know where they are. Reporting these scams helps international authorities round up the individuals and can help prevent others from making costly mistakes.
Credit Card Fraud
Like 419 scams, credit card fraud can happen to anyone and isn’t only targeted at people with disabilities. However, it’s so prevalent that it bears mentioning. This fraud is one of the easiest to detect after it happens and the most likely to happen. News reports regularly announce that card skimmers are found on gas pumps, at public ATMs and even at banks. These devices are nearly undetectable and designed to steal card information. You don’t have to do anything other than make a purchase to become a victim of this type of fraud.
You can easily rectify false charges by checking your statements monthly and working with your bank. Most modern credit and debit cards are protected against fraud, meaning you’ll get your money back when purchases are made without your consent. Your report could also help police track down skimmers or those who steal card numbers in other ways.
As with all of these scams and attempts at fraud, knowing what to look for and how to address the issue is paramount. Don’t let the scammers and fraudsters win, even if they may have gotten the upper hand on you once. Take the battle to them with the information and tools available to you, and help others in our community escape the potential hazards.