Greetings Lafourche Parish Senior Citizens!
Each of you is a valued member of our community. In addition to prosecuting crime, the Lafourche Parish District Attorney’s Office is committed to serving our senior citizens through community education efforts. Last year, we launched the first annual Senior Sources, which is an in-person community education event designed to share resources with our senior citizens.
Unfortunately, the spread of the COVID-19 virus has made it unsafe at this time to gather in large groups, so we must cancel this year’s in-person presentation. As we are committed to providing educational opportunities to prevent our senior citizens from becoming victims of crime, we are offering Senior Sources online this year to address current topics and scams.
As always, our team is available by phone to answer any of your questions or to provide additional information on these current topics. If you would like to speak directly to the special prosecutor assigned to handle all cases dealing with elderly law in our office, you can do so by calling our office at (985) 447-2003 and asking for Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pinho.
We look forward to seeing all of you in the future.
Scam artists may pretend to be the IRS to contact you regarding Economic Impact Payments to steal your personal information and money. Never respond to texts, emails or calls about Economic Impact Payments, because the IRS will never contact you in this manner. The IRS will never contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Also, be on the lookout for emails or text messages with attachments or links claiming to have special information about economic impact payments or refunds. Never respond to these emails or click on these links or attachments. Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS.
If you receive a stimulus payment as a debit card, it will be a visa issued from Money Network Cardholder Services mailed to you in a plain envelope. Please use this link for information and a picture of the legitimate card and letter: https://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2020/stimulus-payment-debit-cards.html
You will never have to pay to receive your stimulus money. This is a scam to obtain your personal information. Also, be aware that if you are asked to to first deposit your stimulus check and then send the IRS money back because they paid you more than they owed you, this is a scam.
Scam artists also pretend to be legitimate businesses. As more individuals are staying at home during the pandemic, you may be contacted by phone, email, or text message, and asked for any personal information by scammers. Be aware scam artists pressure you to quickly make a decision. It is important to never give out personal information. Legitimate companies (banks, merchants, charities, universities, insurers) will never ask you for personal information by phone, email, or text message. If you do business with the company and are concerned that the company may be trying to reach you, find the company’s legitimate website. When you are on the internet, look in the web browser at the top of the screen. The legitimate website will have a locked padlock or key icon. You can click on the icon to see that the website is verified and genuine. Another option is to call the company at the phone number that is on your statement or on the back of your bank card or insurance card.
Ignore any online offers or emails for vaccinations, treatments or test kits for COVID-19. Be aware that many websites that claim to have medical information are actually selling products. Speak directly with your health care provider or use information from government websites, such as coronavirus.gov or usa.gov/coronavirus.
As 2020 is a census year, be aware that scam artists may contact you and pretend to collect a response for the 2020 Census. You can safely and quickly fill out the census online at this government website: https://my2020census.gov/
If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 Census, you can do the following to verify his identity: make sure that he has a valid ID badge, with a photograph, a U. S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you still have questions about his identity, you can call (844)330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative. Please use this government link for additional information on how to avoid fraud https://2020census.gov/en/avoiding-fraud.html
A growing number of senior citizens own smartphones. Smartphones provide an excellent opportunity for seniors to stay in touch and access information during this time of social distancing. Smartphone use also places seniors at risk for identity theft, scams and potential financial loss. As more seniors use their smartphones for sensitive tasks, there is an ever growing need for smartphone security. The Lafourche Parish District Attorney offers these guidelines to enable senior citizens to safely use their smartphones:
Make sure that the auto-lock security feature of the smartphone is turned on to lock the home screen when not in use. When the auto-lock security feature is not set up, the smartphone owner’s identifying information and account data can be accessed if the smartphone is left unattended, lost or stolen. Setting up the auto-lock security feature is simple, and it does not cause not delay when answering calls or dialing 911 in an emergency. Choose the shortest period of time to quickly auto-lock the smartphone when it is idle and select the longest PIN available for increased security. Be sure to choose a PIN that is easy to remember, but never use a birthday, social security number or pet’s name.
Most public WiFi networks are not secure, and it is easy for hackers to steal personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and passwords from a smartphone owner on these unsecured networks. In order to keep personal information safe, it is important not to shop online or access bank accounts or sensitive personal data while using unsecured public WiFi at locations such as a library, restaurant, or airport.
Text message phishing, known as SMISHING, occurs when scam artists use text messages to trick smartphone users into providing their sensitive personal or financial information. These smishing messages often pretend to be from a government agency, bank, or legitimate company and request that the smartphone user provide his username and password, credit card or bank account number, PIN and other personal information. Be aware that governmental agencies and legitimate businesses never ask for sensitive personal or financial information in a text. Never respond to a message from an unknown number and never giving out personal information in a text message. Be aware that text messages can also contain links to malware, which hackers can use to steal your sensitive information, so it is important to never click on links sent in text messages.
At this time, some senior citizens are looking for alternatives to conducting their business in person. ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are a convenient machine for senior citizens to use to quickly obtain cash.
Always be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM. At night, try to have another person with you when using an ATM. If you are by yourself, avoid using an ATM in a secluded or dark area. Instead, choose an ATM that is in a public and well-lighted location or inside a store where other people are present.
Be ready with your card in hand when you approach the ATM. Once your transaction is complete, immediately put any cash into your pocket or purse to conceal it. Wait until you are in a secure area to count your cash. Always remember to take your card and any receipts.
Your ATM card cannot be used to withdraw cash from an ATM without your PIN (Personal Identification Number). Choose a PIN that you can memorize and remember, but is hard for others to guess. Never share your PIN with anyone. Never write your PIN on your ATM card or keep your PIN with your ATM card. When you use an ATM, stand between the machine to shield your PIN from the person behind you. When typing in your PIN, cover the keypad to prevent others from seeing your PIN. No one except you should ever use your ATM card, so never lend your ATM card to anyone. Always keep your ATM card in a safe location, rather than lying around your home. Immediately notify your financial institution if your ATM card is lost or stolen.
Skimming is the theft of account information from an electronic cardholder. The small device that these identity thieves use to steal the information from the magnetic strip of an electronic card is called a skimmer. Skimmers can be installed over the card reader by thieves on ATM machines or on gas station pumps. Also, the identity thief places a keypad directly over the machine’s keypad to steal the PIN.
When using an ATM machine or paying for gasoline at the gas pump, examine the machines closely to make sure the card scanner and keypad matches the color and style of the rest of the machine. Always inspect the machine for loose parts. The best ATMs to use to guard against skimming are monitored machines located at financial institutions or machines placed in a high traffic area in a store or public place. When paying at the gas pump, compare the machine to nearby gas pumps by examining the card reader and PIN Pad for a match. When paying a merchant with a credit card, try to avoid situations where your credit card leaves your sight, as a skimmer can also be a handheld device used by a fraudster. Consider paying with cash when you dine in a restaurant, since wait staff need to take your electronic card to process your payment. Regularly check your account statements and notify your bank immediately if you see any unauthorized charges.
Walking is an excellent way for senior citizens to exercise and to enjoy the outdoors during COVID-19. Here are some pointers for seniors to stay safe while enjoying this activity. Avoid walking alone and at night. When walking in the evening, stay in well-lit populated areas. Stay hydrated by drinking water and dress for the weather conditions. Wear comfortable shoes and be on the lookout for uneven surfaces and other tripping hazards. Walk against traffic to see approaching vehicles. Avoid walking with loud music or earphones to stay alert. Always carry identification and your smart phone in case of an emergency.